The forward scored the winner for the Three Lions against Croatia on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for England’s opening game of Euro 2020 raised quite a lot of eyebrows. The England head coach deployed Kieran Trippier at left-back ahead of Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell, as well as benched both Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford. Despite inviting critics with his line-up, Southgate’s Three Lions beat 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia 1-0. The only goal came from Raheem Sterling, whose place in the line-up was also questioned by many.

Despite dominating the majority of the first half, the Three Lions could not find the back of the nets in the first half. Playing against a side that looked toothless in attack, the English tempo cooled off as the game progressed. Gareth Southgate’s side let Croatia have the ball and adopted a relatively defensive strategy once Raheem Sterling gave them the lead in the 57th minute.

Sterling, along with Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips, justified his place in the opening match’s starting eleven with an impactful performance. Here are a few reasons why Raheem Sterling is likely to start throughout the rest of England’s Euro 2020 campaign.

Incredible record with the national team

His goal against Croatia was Sterling’s first for England in a major tournament

There are no doubts that Raheem Sterling’s club career has soared after he joined Manchester City. In 292 appearances for the Manchester side, Sterling has scored 114 times and provided 88 assists.

The forward has scored 15 goals in the England shirt in 62 appearances. England are unbeaten in the last 11 times that Raheem Sterling has scored playing for the national side. In addition, his goal against Croatia helped England break their streak of having never won an opening fixture of an European Championship.

A goalscoring alternative to Harry Kane

England’s Talismanic striker, Harry Kane, was kept quiet on Sunday evening. Although Croatia looked feeble in their attack, they were able to exert England’s extreme pressure early on. In addition, they were able to nullify England’s main goalscorer, Harry Kane.

Despite not being the most pleasing goal that he has ever scored, Sterling’s run to receive Phillip’s pass and then shoot under pressure gave England the lead. A well-executed move, made possible with 18 successive passes, needed Sterling to add the final touch.

Southgate’s decision to start Sterling proved worthy. The forward attempted three shots, compared to Harry Kane’s one. The lack of a player that could find the net, excluding Harry Kane, could have haunted Southgate’s side if Sterling had started out on the bench.

Effective movement and positioning

Sterling’s goal was a testament to his ability to function inside the box. Raheem Sterling, like his role at Manchester City, can move around and function in and around the box. Despite being frequently criticised for missing sitters, Sterling’s runs and ability to get into positions to shoot makes him a vital member of the squad.

Starting out on the left side, Sterling’s ability to make runs and carry the ball were vital in keeping England’s attack ticking. Similarly, on the left side, with Kieran Trippier and Mason Mount in support, Sterling looked lively and might continue throughout the tournament.

Gareth Southgate will definitely look to use this to his side’s future gameplay. In that regard, we might see Sterling make it to the starting line-up in the fixtures to come.

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