In an inexplicable move, Roy Hodgson is expected to recall Raheem Sterling to the England starting lineup for the nation’s Euro 2016 knock-out tie with minnows Iceland. For such a decisive fixture, England fans have been baffled to learn that Sterling, one of the worst performing players in the entire tournament, will be one of Hodgson’s first choice attackers.
For all the expectation surrounding the national side, England will be attempting to secure their first ever overseas victory in the knockout phase of a European Championship. Iceland hardly pose the most formidable of oppositions, but England fans will not wanting to witness any complacency – particularly after the slip-up against Slovakia.
Sterling was one of the omissions from the side that started against Slovakia, with Hodgson overhauling the line-up with six changes. Not a soul was arguing that the Man City man was undeserving of his spot on the bench. Sterling’s performances against Russia and Wales were nothing short of abominable.
Negative play, misplaced passes, missed chances, lack of desire and a running style similar to that of Scooby Doo’s Velma all became synonymous with Sterling’s performances.
— Lucy Bronze (@LucyBronze) December 21, 2014
Sterling is expected to replace the impressive Adam Lallana on the left side of an attacking three, with Harry Kane returning as England’s central forward and Sturridge working from the right-hand side. Sterling was a key performer for Hodgson at the 2014 World Cup and seems to have carried a considerable amount of favour into the tournament in France.
It is a truly unique position that Sterling seems to possess as an England footballer, he can seemingly do no wrong in Hodgson’s eye. Despite the ferocious, and frankly deserved criticism, aimed at Sterling by the media, the fans inside the ground and even England’s coaching staff, Hodgson still seems to gaze at the Manchester City man through rose-tinted glasses.
Any other player would surely have seen his chances in the side evaporate by now, just ask Andros Townsend, a consistently strong England performer, yet alienated from the squad by Hodgson. God knows how poorly Sterling would have to play to earn the same treatment…
There’s a sense around the England camp that even the players feel uneasy about Sterling’s apparent untouchable status, with captain Wayne Rooney providing a particularly timid response when questioned about the former Liverpool man:
“From what I’ve seen, his state of mind is fine,”
“He’s been normal around the camp and, on the training pitch, he’s been fantastic, sharp, taking players on, scoring goals.
“There’s no issue with Raheem at all. His attitude isn’t questioned. He stays behind after training doing what he does normally, and he’s a huge asset to us as a team.”
The reasoning behind Sterling’s inclusion seems flimsy to say the least. Iceland will no doubt set up with a stubborn defensive line which England will be tasked with dismantling – yet another attack vs defence fixture.
In theory, Sterling’s ability to dribble at pace and provide natural width would be England’s answer to unlocking Iceland, though he displayed neither of these attributes against either Wales or Russia, both of whom shared a similarly defensive setup. Sterling is a truly unique English footballer in the sense that his footballing abilities are a complete myth, yet somehow he is consistently placed in a position where he can disgrace a Three Lions shirt time and time again.