Time to start winning tournaments, Sterling tells England
Guimaraes (Portugal) (AFP)
Fresh from winning a historic domestic treble with Manchester City, Raheem Sterling wants to end a stellar season by winning England's first trophy for 53 years at the Nations League.
Sterling will win his 50th England cap in Thursday's semi-final against the Netherlands and may even captain his country for the first time should Gareth Southgate decide to leave out Harry Kane.
The 24-year-old endured plenty of criticism for his performances on the international stage early in his career, but that has all changed of late as six of his eight international goals have come in his last four outings.
And after reaching the semi-finals of last year's World Cup, Sterling believes it is time for England to finally turn that momentum into silverware.
"It's a massive achievement," said Sterling on reaching a half-century of international appearances. "But with the national team now it's time to try and challenge for some trophies.
"It's remarkable how far we've come and we've still got a long way to go."
Southgate has a tricky task in deciding which of the seven players in his 23-man squad involved in Saturday's Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham will start in Guimaraes against the Dutch.
Kane looked well short of match fitness as he made his return from a two-month injury layoff, with the Spurs striker easily seen off by Virgil van Dijk.
The Dutch captain will provide stiff opposition once more on Thursday, but Southgate defended Kane's performance in Madrid.
"The service into Harry wasn't favouring him or in his area," said Southgate.
"I've got to assess all the players involved in Madrid because it is a unique game, unique set of circumstances whether you have won or lost and the physical complications."
And Southgate hinted that Kane's role in carrying his side by winning the World Cup golden boot last summer and scoring the goal that booked their place in the Nations League last four against Croatia in November means he is a special case.
"I think all managers have really difficult decisions to make on selections.
"When you've got top quality players who have won you so many matches, there is an even bigger temptation to do that. You make decisions on the evidence in front of you."
A year on from an unexpected run deep into the World Cup, expectations are now elevated for Southgate's squad.
But he echoed Sterling's call for his side to embrace the extra pressure and make sure they are no longer happy just to make semi-finals, particularly with the final of next year's European Championship to take place at Wembley.
"We know the journey we are on and where we are heading ahead of next summer, but of course we want to start winning things. We are all hungry for that," added Southgate.
"We want to leave here on Sunday with a trophy and a nice summer to look forward to for everybody."
? 2019 AFP