Sterling at heart of England World Cup bid despite goal drought

Sterling at heart of England World Cup bid despite goal drought

Such efficiency has so far been missing from his game at the World Cup, with a moment of indecision spoiling a clear-cut chance in the 2-0 quarter-final win over Sweden.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has identified Raheem Sterling as England's danger man in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

Amid the joyous celebrations that have greeted England's run to the semi-finals in Russia, Sterling seems to be acting as a lightning rod - the one player whose contribution splits opinion. "Of course he hasn't scored the goals we would have liked to score but for myself and the players he has been a crucial part of the way we have been playing".

"I think Raheem Sterling is an important player because he is fast and unsafe alongside Harry Kane", Dalic said in a press conference Sunday. "I think he's had a fantastic tournament so far", Dier added.

He would not give any details of how serious those injuries are, saying only that reaching the last four was "a new motivation" for his squad, but did say he might have to make changes to his line-up as now was not the time to take any risks with players who are not 100 per cent.

Southgate has engendered a more open, relaxed environment at national team level, with the players carrying less emotional baggage and playing with more freedom.

"As I have got older I have become more conscious of that - it is easy to avoid challenges and avoid putting yourself on the line", he said.

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The semi-final also represents a financial mismatch between the riches of England's Premier League and Croatian football.

"They dealt with Sweden relatively easily so we know they are going to be a hard opponent and we respect them", he said.

"The brain sometimes tells you to avoid the possibility of disappointment or failure but that is going to happen".

"It is an opportunity, a game which is very evenly-matched".

"If we had England's money, who knows where we'd be in our country?"

The 23-year-old's performances at the World Cup in Russian Federation have divided football fans.

"When I chose to take it that is exactly what I set out to do".

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