England vs. Italy: Raheem Sterling urges fans to ‘give some love’
Man City star says positivity can boost the team ahead of the World Cup
England play Italy at Wembley this evening and striker Raheem Sterling has urged fans to “give love” to the Three Lions as they continue their preparation for June’s World Cup in Russia.
Despite Friday’s 1-0 win in the Netherlands - a result made all the more impressive by Holland’s 3-0 thrashing of European champions Portugal last night - there is what Sterling calls an air of negativity hanging over the public and press.
“I would love to hear some positive notes coming in, just to let the boys know everyone is behind them,” said the Manchester City star in an interview with BBC Radio 5 live. “I feel sometimes there is too much negativity.”
Tonight’s clash with Italy offers England another chance to build on the momentum gathered during their successful World Cup qualification when they won their group without losing a game. Since then the Three Lions have drawn with Brazil and Germany in friendlies but the lack of goals has contributed to an indifference among fans.
“If you want your country to do well as everyone says, bring a positive light to it,” Sterling told the supporters. “Make the boys go off to the World Cup with a clear head, that everyone is behind them and everyone is with them, and trust me I think you would definitely see a better England.
“I think if we get behind those players, give them love, you wouldn’t know how much that will help them, how much that would boost their confidence.”
There was a time in the last decade - when England boasted the so-called Golden Generation of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and John Terry - when the Three Lions routinely went off to tournaments believing the trophy would be theirs. One anti-climax followed another and for the first time in a generation England are going into a World Cup with low expectations.
“It’s disappointing when you put on a shirt and get negative feedback,” admitted Sterling. “I think at times we are judged a bit too early. I think it probably doesn’t work in our favour, but I think with the support in this country, I think if we do that a lot more, you’ll see a lot more of the players coming through.”
Certainly England’s opponents this evening would love to be in their position. Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years is a national humiliation, and tonight’s fixture will be used as part of their massive rebuilding programme ahead of the 2020 European Championship.
One of the few senior players left in the squad is Leonardo Bonucci, who will captain Italy, and he said the Azzurri should look to their hosts as an example of how to make the move from one generation to the next.
“England have managed to go through transition while still qualifying,” Bonucci told The Guardian. “England have a group of young players with lots of experience. Our young players don’t have that experience… we all need to understand Italy starts, not from zero, but not very far from zero.”
England vs. Italy
- When: tonight
- Where: Wembley Stadium, London
- Kick-off time: 8pm
- Tickets: all tickets are sold out
England team news
The BBC reports that Jack Butland will replace Jordan Pickford in goal for the clash against Italy. Harry Kane, Jack Wilshere, Joe Gomez and Ryan Bertrand are all out injured. Sky Sports says Leicester City defender Harry Maguire will face a late fitness test.
Italy team news
Giorgio Chiellini misses out and Leonardo Bonucci will captain the Azzurri.