Raheem Sterling is eyeing EURO 2020 glory with England
On Friday night, England will book their place at next summer’s Euro 2020 final stages with a win.
But Raheem Sterling is already dreaming of lifting the trophy itself.
“Yes, it’s something you think of all the time, especially coming so close in the World Cup and having such a good run as a team,” Sterling said unapologetically. “We’re developing and we’re kind of getting that winning mentality.
“The Nations League was a bit disappointing, but we’ve got another chance now and I feel that a lot of the players don’t just want to be involved in tournaments and finish in the quarter-finals and say that was a good run. Or even the semi-finals.
“I’d say every single player, and the manager, all want to go into tournaments with the thought of winning it.
“It will be a difficult task but it’s definitely something that we all dream of winning.”
Gareth Southgate has been instrumental in nurturing that mentality but the England manager is keen the players should not forget to celebrate the smaller victories, too.
Two years ago, he was left feeling flat after England secured their place in Russia with a tepid 1-0 home win against Slovenia – then watched two nights later as France and Portugal celebrated with more abandon their own achievements in reaching the World Cup finals.
England thrashed Czech Republic at Wembley
“I can remember the last time we qualified,” he said. “It was very flat.
“Then we were watching France and Portugal celebrate, it seemed very strange.
“So, I let them all have a drink in Lithuania after the game on the Monday and we got on with it.”
Will they be allowed a drink if we win against the Czechs? Southgate is cautious after the defensive howlers that tarnished last month’s 5-3 victory over Kosovo at St Mary’s.
“Let’s see how we go this time,” Southgate said. “You’ve always got to enjoy any wins.
England top their group with a 100 per cent record
“But one of the difficulties of the job is that after we win 5-3, I’m miserable for a month! That’s the standard we’ve set.
“We have expectations of ourselves, and we don’t expect to be doing laps of honour for qualifying.
“But equally, it’s a step on the road and it’s something that you should enjoy. So, we’ve got to do it first.”
Aside from the 5-0 drubbing at Wembley which rather flattered England, the Czech Republic have scored in every other group game.
Raheem Sterling wants to win the Euros with England
But another shut-out is very must at the top of his priorities.
“There’s obvious errors that we’ve made in some of our games,” he said. “Some of our defenders who’ve picked up more caps over the last couple of years either aren’t with us or haven’t been playing regularly for their clubs.
“So, it’s a different situation to solve. For sure, we’re going to score goals and play good football, but we have to get all aspects of the game right.
“Tournaments are like championships – you’ve got to defend well and keep clean sheets and then you have a much better chance of winning them.”
This week marked the third anniversary of Southgate’s first game in charge – a role he fell into reluctantly as a caretaker initially before finally accepting a role few seemed to hanker after.
Tammy Abraham is looking to make a mark on the England team just like Sterling
Being England boss seems a lot more fun these days.
“There’s lots of good potential, we’ve won youth tournaments, which is a real positive step and good for the mentality of the players,” Southgate admitted.
“English football, with young players coming through, looks in a healthy state.
“But Raheem made the point in there: it’s only when we deliver, it’s only when the players deliver on big stages that we can really say that. You constantly have to deliver.”