DANNY MURPHY: Raheem Sterling was a fitting match-winner as his fitness levels stood out for England… the Manchester City star is the perfect role model for Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden
Raheem Sterling was a fitting match-winner on Saturday. When England’s levels dropped in the second half, understandably as it’s so early in the season, he was the player whose fitness stood out.
He was the one individual always probing and trying to make things happen as Iceland continued to sit back and frustrate. And when the penalty opportunity finally came with Harry Kane off the pitch, it was no surprise he comfortably rolled it in.
In terms of how to develop a career and take responsibility on the pitch during games. Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden won’t have a better example to follow than Sterling, who they will both know anyway from Manchester City.
Raheem Sterling was a fitting match-winner for England as his fitness levels stood out
Sterling’s stoppage time penalty earned England a cagey 1-0 victory over Iceland on Saturday
Sterling was a superstar at a young age, not many play for Liverpool and England at 17, and has had to overcome periods when things haven’t gone smoothly.
He’s still only 25, with well over 50 caps, and looks and plays like someone at peace with themselves. When others lost sharpness in the second half, he didn’t drop. He looked fresh as a daisy.
Sancho and Foden have big futures if they can continue to develop and improve as Sterling has done.
Jadon Sancho (pictured) and Phil Foden won’t have a better example to follow than Sterling
The early signs are encouraging. Considering it was Foden’s England debut in Reykjavik, he was terrific in the first half playing the David Silva role on the left-hand side of midfield with Declan Rice holding.
What Foden did really well was sometimes come deep to collect the ball but also making runs off the ball further up the pitch. It made him extremely hard to mark, and we know all about his touch and awareness. A wonderful talent.
It’s not easy as a winger against a well-drilled defence who sit that deep, because there is little space in behind to beat the full-back. I thought Sancho did alright and caused them problems before half-time.
England’s win was narrow, they scored a late penalty and Iceland missed theirs, but it was deserved.
While Southgate won’t be happy that England struggled to open up average opposition, it would have been a different game had Harry Kane’s early goal stood, as it should have. Because it was ruled out for offside, Iceland were able to continue with their plan to frustrate.
Considering it was Foden’s debut, he was terrific in the first half playing David Silva role
You also have to remember it was a mixed bag of an England team with no Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson or Marcus Rashford. In addition, the players were all at different levels of fitness, some had had longer breaks than others.
I actually thought Southgate could have made his substitutions earlier. Kane was flagging by the time he came off, not surprising as he’d had to self-isolate after a holiday.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were wholesale changes in midfield and up front for the next game against Denmark on Tuesday to allow the likes of Mason Mount and Jack Grealish some action, and possibly even start with Danny Ings or Tammy Abraham down the middle.
He could give Sterling a rest as well though to be honest he looked the one forward ready to go again straight away.