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Raheem Sterling calls on England to embrace new-found confidence ahead of World Cup opener

'Have that belief that probably some people didn't have before and enjoy': Raheem Sterling calls on England to embrace new-found confidence ahead of World Cup opener against Tunisia

  • Sterling was speaking before the Three Lions meet Tunisia in Volgograd
  • 23-year-old believes there is cause for greater optimism for England
  • ITV pundits praised Sterling ahead of 2018 World Cup opener in Moscow 

By George Flood For Mailonline

Published: 11:48 EDT, 14 June 2018 | Updated: 12:19 EDT, 14 June 2018

Raheem Sterling has encouraged England players and supporters to embrace a new-found confidence as pundits heaped praise on the Manchester City forward ahead of the World Cup in Russia.

Gareth Southgate's young and talented squad begin their Group G campaign against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday and head into the tournament with a sense of optimism following a strong qualification campaign and warm-up victories over Nigeria and Costa Rica on home soil.

Sterling was part of the Roy Hodgson England teams that failed to progress past the group stage of the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 before suffering a humiliating defeat to Iceland at the last-16 stage of the European Championship two years ago and he clearly believes there is cause for greater optimism this summer.

Raheem Sterling has called on England players and fans to be confident during the World Cup
Raheem Sterling has called on England players and fans to be confident during the World Cup

Raheem Sterling has called on England players and fans to be confident during the World Cup

'My message I'd like to give is just be confident, everyone, not just the players,' he told ITV Sport. 'It's a World Cup and everyone here... it's what you've wanted to do from a little kid.

'Have that belief that probably some people didn't have before and enjoy.'

Sterling has certainly endured a mixed build-up to his latest World Cup appearance, with a phenomenal domestic season - in which he notched a career-high 18 goals to help record-breaking City cruise to the Premier League title under Pep Guardiola - followed by the well-documented controversy over a gun tattoo on his right leg.

'As a player I'm developing each year,' he said. 'I set myself standards and levels I want to reach but every time I do get a setback it's where do I go from here? I never panic, I try to think what's the best thing for me and try to achieve that.'


On growing up near to Wembley Stadium, the 23-year-old added: 'As a young boy I used to walk around Wembley or be on my bike... hopefully I can be wearing that 10 in that stadium and be in my hometown and hopefully be the king of Wembley one day.'

ITV pundit Ian Wright was full of praise for Sterling and his ability to recover from personal setbacks to reach such a high level at a young age and urged people to focus more on that aspect of his character.

Speaking ahead of the opening World Cup fixture between hosts Russia and Group A rivals Saudi Arabia in Moscow, he said: 'Raheem has broken through. He's had a lot of trauma when he was younger in respects of personal tragedy.

'He's had a lot of stick, getting into the game and what happened when he left Liverpool. The way he’s dealt with all the problems he's had has been fantastic. What's he's learned all the way from his childhood to now is that he's learned from mistakes. 

'People gave him a lot of stick about the tattoo... He gets a lot of stick for a load of rubbish. What you have to say about Raheem and the way he is bouncing back is what people should focus more on. The fact is what he's done to get to this point at 23 with everything he's been through is remarkable. And that is what people don't focus on enough.'

Sterling believes people should have belief that may have been lacking in prior tournaments
Sterling believes people should have belief that may have been lacking in prior tournaments

Sterling believes people should have belief that may have been lacking in prior tournaments

Pundits Ian Wright and Gary Neville were both full of praise for the 23-year-old's development
Pundits Ian Wright and Gary Neville were both full of praise for the 23-year-old's development

Pundits Ian Wright and Gary Neville were both full of praise for the 23-year-old's development

Fellow pundit Gary Neville coached Sterling during his time on Hodgson's England staff and thinks the player has clearly developed since then, stating he would not have had the belief or confidence to give such an impressive and introspective interview four years ago.

'He's someone who does make mistakes, but he's young and he accepts that he makes mistakes and could have done things differently and done things better,' he said.

'He's obviously somebody who has had vulnerabilities. I saw in the early years of working with him with England as someone who was vulnerable, who needed to improve his confidence and his belief. But he's playing out his mistakes in front of millions of people.

'The biggest thing is his improvement as a player. The improvement as a player in the last 12 months is unbelievable, and that's the biggest thing. I actually questioned probably a year-and-a-half, two years ago working with him whether he would ever gain the consistency to be able to perform at the highest level. I had doubts.

'But the more he did last season, you remove those doubts. He's now a goal-scorer, assists... He's got to deliver that now in this tournament for England. That's the big thing - performance.'

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