England got their World Cup campaign under way last night as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Italy.
Raheem Sterling was one of the bright sparks for Roy Hodgson’s side as he produced some of the blistering attacking form, which he displayed for Liverpool over the second half of last season.
There’s plenty for England to work on ahead of what is now a knock-out game against Uruguay this Thursday, but Sterling is likely to keep his place in England’s attack.
Sterling was moved to a seemingly unnatural central position by Hodgson last night but he excelled.
He’s made his name playing on the right hand side of Liverpool’s midfield but showed good touch and quality in behind Daniel Sturridge, which could prompt Brendan Rodgers to use him centrally on occasions at Anfield.
Sterling’s pace is his biggest asset but what Rodgers and Hodgson would have been so pleased to see last night is a level of intelligence, which hints at versatility for the teenager.
On plenty of occasions Sterling dropped into a deeper central position, before turning in a split second and turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye.
In short, Italy couldn’t handle his pace and attacking intelligence and on another night, he would have scored that cracking early shot and won England the game.
The challenge for Sterling is how he reacts in the face of challenges over the rest of the tournament in Brazil, heading into next season.
He’s no longer an unknown commodity and teams are going to be working very hard on systems designed to keep him quiet.
If he can reinvent himself and find ways to be effective in the face of sets of tactics aimed at muting him, he can maintain a positive and important performance level for both club and country over the next few years.
Here’s what Liverpool fans made of his performance on Twitter.
Main thing I'm taking from yesterday is Sterling's performance. Amazingly talented. What an incredible future the young lad has.— Helen (@Helen_LFC) June 15, 2014
Sterling's performance is defo a positive from tonight's game. He's been impressive— Luke (@MrSlapYourself) June 14, 2014
Yes England lost but that Sterling performance really cheered me up. Glad to have him at Liverpool. Best England player vs Italy.— Mosby (@_aimananwar) June 15, 2014
How I felt about Raheem Sterling's performance pic.twitter.com/JDao0hCkzR— Adam Mooi (@Adam_Mooi) June 15, 2014
Sterling justified his selection with that performance. He's going to be some player.— Jack (@JackWatson_) June 15, 2014
Sterling my man of the match. Excellent performance.— LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) June 14, 2014
Let's recall Sterling's performance in the beginning of the season and how it developed through the season. All thanks to Brendan Rodgers!— Saif (@mrSaif_11) June 14, 2014
Sterling's performance is the one tonight. star quality— Only Oli (@Olivertography) June 14, 2014
What a job Brendan Rodgers has done with sterling though!— FA CUP WINNERS 2014 (@TannaAFC) June 15, 2014