Sturridge and his fellow striker Jamie Vardy got the goals that saw England come back to defeat Wales 2-1 in Lens with the pair coming on as substitutes after the manager Roy Hodgson took an uncharacteristic gamble at half-time.
A breathless Sturridge was still trying to digest his part in the game when he paid tribute to Hodgson, saying: “I’m grateful to the gaffer for allowing me to score and it’s a beautiful feeling to represent your country in the rivalry against another great country. It’s a brilliant feeling.”
The Liverpool striker added: “It’s crazy. It’s only one more game in the group so we mustn’t get too excited. To experience this atmosphere and togetherness is an amazing feeling.”
Asked whether he should be in the first XI against Slovakia on Monday, he said: “That’s the gaffer’s decision. My job’s to go out there and perform the best I can in every game when I get the minutes.
“I’m grateful to the gaffer for giving me the opportunity because I’ve got huge faith in him and I’d like to say thanks to my family and the fans.”
The Wales goalscorer Gareth Bale, who had given his side the lead in the 42nd minute with a long-range free-kick, promised to keep fighting to the end in the knowledge that victory over Russia on Monday could still see his side go through.
“I’m very disappointed but I’m very proud of everybody. We gave 100% and we can’t do much more,” he said.
“We still have one more game to go and the tournament’s not over yet. We’ll keep fighting all the way. It wasn’t a great game but we’re still in the thick of things and we’ll keep fighting to qualify.”
A relieved Hodgson said: “If I wasn’t involved with England and was watching Wales play some other opponents I would have felt very sorry for them. But you’ll have to excuse me not feeling sorry for them because I want to be pleased for ourselves.
“But I’ve got to say, especially in the second half I thought it was a very dominant performance. I thought we were aggressive and very bold in our attacking play and it took a lot of incredibly good defending by the Wales back five to keep us out but we got the two goals so we go home happy.”
Asked about the substitutions he admitted: “They were pushed on to me maybe a bit earlier than normal but it was always in our thoughts to bring Sturridge and Vardy on the field.”
His captain Wayne Rooney pointed up the depth in the England squad and emphasised that his team-mates “showed a lot of character today”.
“We know we’re not just an 11-man team,” he said. “We’ve got 23 players and we all trust each other to do a good job. I think it’s shown today what a good squad we’ve got with some very exciting players and we played some great stuff.
“It’s just a great feeling to win the game the way we did and with one game to go we’ll have to finish the job off on Monday.”
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