Raheem Sterling fired England to the top of Group D at Euro 2020 – and into the unknown. The 1-0 win against Czech Republic leaves England with a nervous wait to see who finishes second in Group F. Depending on results between France and Portugal, and Germany against Hungary, any of the four could be England’s opponents at Wembley on Tuesday.
However, Sterling, who netted his second goal of the tournament, is very much of the mind: “Bring it on!”
He said: “At some point you have to face the best teams. It is about challenging yourselves. The most important thing was to win the group.
“It’s tournament football, it’s very different to being at your clubs. We just need to get to see games out a little bit better. We’re making good progress and now it’s time for a big challenge.”
Bukayo Saka was named man-of-the-match and Sterling feels the Arsenal winger can get England buzzing in the knockout stages.
“I thought Bukayo Saka was brilliant,” he said. “He got in the pockets of space, drove at people and was direct.
“He’s tough, he’s funny, he gets on with everyone in the dressing room – I’m buzzing for him.”
The game saw Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire in action for the first time and Gareth Southgate admitted he would need his full squad firing if England are to go much further.
“These will be different games,” he said. “World champions, European champions or Germany who are back on song.
“Whoever we play will be tough opposition but we have known the route through for 18 months. But the good thing is that we are still improving – there is more to come from us.
“We said to the players before the game that the pressure was off, we had qualified but there was still something to achieve by winning th Group which was always our target.
“First or second, there was no way of knowing what is the better route and there’s no way of knowing who we will face next but you have to take control of what you can achieve and we wanted to stay at Wembley.
Southgate added: “The coronavirus situation is not helpful for us as a team, but devastating for the two boys.
“They are in a major championship and have had to miss out on a big part of it in this way. It feels incredibly harsh.
“We have been incredibly vigilant throughout and what has happened with the two boys has been an anomaly.
“We have had to speak to the players again to remind them but frankly we have not come unstuck in the past and how we have come unstuck and others haven’t is beyond comprehension.
“Just because there is some evidence of ours, but the situation with others has been a higher risk in terms of passing the virus on.”