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The Summer of Sterling and Rise of Rice: England plays on at EURO 2020

Pro Soccer Talk share their EURO 2020 frontrunners, including an England team with massive homefield advantages at Wembley.

Raheem Sterling has lived quite a life at the age of 26, with nine trophies to his credit and a FWA Footballer of the Year Award.

But he’s also been racially-targeted both inside of stadia for club and country, and in less straightforward ways in the tabloids.

And for as good as he’s been for Liverpool, Manchester City, and England, Sterling has also had long slumps and high-profile mistakes.

[ LIVE: Full EURO 2020 scores, tables ]

He went 27 matches without a goal for England at one point, scrapped with club rival but Three Lions teammate Joe Gomez, and blew a late and wide-open chance during City’s 2019-20 Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon.

So you can imagine what his reclaimed status as English hero will mean after Tuesday’s goal against hated Germany, which gave him three match-winners for England at EURO 2020.
“Doing it for your country will always be special and it is a special moment for me,” Sterling said, from the BBC. “I celebrated and for half a second I thought ‘let it not be offside’. Really happy it went in and got the win.”

Three Lions teammate Declan Rice summed it up nicely when asked about Sterling’s excellent tournament following to 2-0 win.

“Raheem Sterling is proving so many people wrong, scoring so many goals,” Rice said.

And Rice pointed to Sterling’s effort, contribution, and success in the wake of massive pressure as symbolic of something greater.

After all, the 26-year-old gets to play the underdog role despite his massive trophy collection and status as a key piece of one of the richest clubs in the world.

Here’s Rice on England:

“It’s incredible, a lot of people had written us off in the group stage, complaints about the performances, not scoring enough but we want to put people wrong, with a full house everyone had the fire in the belly to one, knock Germany out, and two progress in the tournament.”

And Sterling had love for Rice’s magnificent tournament in the heart of the English midfield.

West Ham star Rice and Leeds man Kalvin Phillips have opened the eyes of many who hadn’t appreciated the lower-profile players.

Rice has started all four matches for England and is passing at 92 percent, averaging one interception and 1.8 tackles per game.

“We knew the intensity we can play at and not a lot of teams can deal with it,” Sterling said. “The two players in midfield, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, ate up the grass and were animals in there.”

Follow @NicholasMendola