Former England defender Jamie Carragher thinks Raheem Sterling is the leading candidate to be player of Euro 2020 after the forward’s exhilarating display in the semi-final win over Denmark.
Having scored three times in England’s first four games, Sterling was instrumental in the 4-0 quarter-final defeat of Ukraine last weekend, and gave the Denmark defence problems all night at Wembley on Wednesday, as England won 2-1 after extra-time.
The win put England through to their first major final for 55 years and they will face Italy back at Wembley on Sunday night.
Asked who had impressed him most in the semi-final at Wembley, Carragher told Sky Sports News: “Raheem Sterling.
“I said this after the group games, I think Raheem Sterling has been England’s best player by a long way.
“There was a lot of talk going into the competition that his position in the team was up for grabs, which I couldn’t understand because he has been outstanding for [manager] Gareth Southgate since the World Cup, over a two or three-year period.
“And especially the way Harry Kane is playing, coming deeper for the ball and trying to get on the ball, you have to have people making runs in behind and having pace in behind.
“I think before this tournament started, the two first names on the team sheet if everyone was fit would be Harry Kane and Harry Maguire – but now it has to be Raheem Sterling joining those two.
“Normally the player of the tournament does come from the nation who won the tournament, but not all the time.
“Italy will have a few shouts, the left-back [Leonardo Spinazzola] who is unfortunately not going to play in the final [due to injury] and (Federico) Chiesa has come in and done a great job. The two centre-backs as well.
“It’s not just Raheem Sterling in the England team – I think Harry Maguire has had a huge influence since he came back in, Harry Kane is now getting back to what we expect from him in terms of goals and performances.
“But I think Raheem Sterling, at this moment, has it to lose, shall we say.”
Carra’s early Euro 2020 final prediction
“I think it will be a very tight game. I think it may go to penalties and England come out victorious.
“We have done a lot of work on penalties, so let’s not let that go to waste!
“I don’t think there will be too many goals in the game. Italy are very strong defensively, so are England.
“I think it will be 1-1 and then go to penalties.
“I think it’s the right final. I think they have been the two most impressive teams in this competition – and winner takes all on Sunday.”
Neville: Time to give Saka a break
Gary Neville says Gareth Southgate was right to start Bukayo Saka in the semi-final defeat of Denmark – but thinks the Arsenal forward may be dropped to the bench for Sunday’s final against Italy.
Saka got the nod to start on Wednesday – having impressed earlier in the tournament – and justified his selection by providing the cross that Simon Kjaer turned into his own net for England’s equaliser.
But Saka will not turn 20 until September and Neville thinks the exciting youngster may be best used off the bench against the Italians.
“I agreed with bringing him [Saka] back last night because I felt he had been the most lively of the wide players, along with Raheem Sterling,” said Neville.
“I am not sure he will start Sunday. I think that might just be too much for him.
“What he did last night, the amount he has given in this tournament, I just feel we will see somebody else.
“I look at (Giorgio) Chiellini and (Leonardo) Bonucci, and I think, who wouldn’t they like to have in those wide areas, making those inside runs?
“And I actually think it could be a game for (Marcus) Rashford or (Jadon) Sancho to accompany Sterling in those wide positions.
“I think those wide positions need to be quick players, who make out to in runs, so I don’t think we will see Saka on Sunday.
“I think it might be one game too much for him.
“I was there in Euro 1996 as a 21-year-old and I was absolutely exhausted as I went through the tournament.
“I just feel that, on Sunday, he may be a handy sub to have and he [Southgate] may bring in other players, who haven’t played on Wednesday night.”
‘Never a penalty in a million years’
Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand was very critical of the decision to give England a penalty for a foul on Raheem Sterling in the first half of extra-time.
Neville agrees it was a harsh decision but thinks England would have gone on to win the match anyway.
“Never a penalty in a million years,” said Neville.
“I always think, what would the headlines be, how would we feel this morning, if we were on the other end of that penalty?
“We’d be absolutely devastated.
“But I genuinely think that team would have succeeded without that penalty. I think it would have done something different and got that goal.
“When (Kasper) Dolberg and (Mikkel) Damsgaard went off for Denmark, the game changed completely, and they lost their legs.
“I think the goal would have come.
“It was never a penalty, it was really soft, but I’m glad we got it!”
Drink it in… England are in a major tournament final for the first time since 1966 after their extra-time win over Denmark at Wembley in semi-final of Euro 2020.
Kate Burlaga is joined by Rob Dorsett, Pete Smith and Nick Wright to discuss an historic night, and whether this ‘new England’ side can go all the way against Italy on Sunday.
Gareth Southgate savoured sharing an historic night for English football with the nation as England overcame Denmark to reach the final of Euro 2020 – their first international final since 1966.
Captain Harry Kane ended England’s 55-year wait for a major men’s final appearance with a dramatic extra-time winner, converting the rebound after Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had saved his contentiously awarded penalty.
Three years on from the heartache in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, and 25 years on from his infamous missed penalty in the shootout defeat to Germany at Euro 96, it was redemption for Southgate and his players, as more than 60,000 fans generated a frenzied atmosphere seldom seen at the new Wembley.
“I’m so proud of the players,” Southgate said. “It’s an incredible occasion to be a part of, the fans were incredible all night.
“For our country… I’ve not heard the new Wembley like that, ever. To be able to share that with everybody is very special.”
Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand admits he is bitter after England ended his battling side’s Euro 2020 dream.
Harry Kane’s extra-time winner sunk the Danes and earned England a 2-1 semi-final win at Wembley.
Kane scored after England were awarded a penalty by referee Danny Makkelie when Raheem Sterling went down under Joakim Maehle’s challenge.
Hjulmand was unhappy there was a second ball on the pitch at the time of the foul but also insisted it was not a penalty.
He said: “It was a penalty which should not have been a penalty. It is something which annoys me right now. We are very disappointed.
“It feels bitter but we have to digest this before we can discuss these feelings. It’s a bitter way to leave the tournament.”