Raheem Sterling has “taken his game to another level”, says England manager Gareth Southgate.
The Manchester City forward was England’s match-winner against Iceland with a penalty that was his 11th goal in his past 12 internationals.
Southgate praised “his hunger to score, his hunger to win things, his hunger to drive himself”.
“His mentality has been exceptional all week – [he’s] desperate to be here, desperate to play,” he added.
Sterling was dropped for England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro last year following a clash with international team-mate Joe Gomez.
But his form for club and country has been consistently excellent for the past few seasons.
In 16 internationals since the last World Cup England have scored 49 goals, with Sterling contributing 10 – just three fewer than captain Harry Kane.
At the age of 25 Sterling already has 57 caps – the same number Southgate, and Paul Gascoigne, finished their careers on.
“[His attitude] has a massive impact on everybody around him and really he has taken his game to another level,” Southgate said.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him really. It would have been very easy to have another few days on the beach, not report in, get himself right for his club at the beginning of the season.
“Harry [Kane] is a supreme goalscorer and is critical to the way we play. The nice thing is that we won’t be leaning just on Harry now.”
‘We had a reputation of being too nice’
England face Denmark in Copenhagen on Tuesday in their second Nations League match.
Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse, who made his first start in Iceland, says his side have been “too nice” at times.
Ward-Prowse was filmed standing on the penalty spot before Birkir Bjarnason missed a stoppage-time spot-kick for Iceland, but said he was not deliberately damaging the surface.
“It wasn’t any digging of the spot, it was more just delaying the penalty,” he said.
“It was a bit of a mad few minutes for everybody.
“We maybe had the reputation of being a bit too nice and we’ve had to show a bit more aggression and a bit of that darker side in order to help us win games. I think it’s just something that I have learned along the way.”
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