Alan Shearer has picked out seven England stars for special praise for their performances at Euro 2020 and feels Raheem Sterling has been the best player in the whole tournament.
Sterling has scored three times on England’s route to the final, including winners against Croatia, Czech Republic and the opener against Germany.
He was also outstanding in the comeback victory over Denmark in the semi-finals, though was not alone as his Three Lions teammates produced a magnificent display to book their place in the showpiece final against Italy.
There have been several standout performances in every round of the competition from England’s troops, but while Shearer hailed the team effort, he gave special mention to a select group.
“They’ve all played their part,” Shearer said on BBC. “Harry Maguire has been absolutely sensational. Kyle Walker, you go right throughout the team, Harry Kane found his form at the right time, Luke Shaw on that left-hand side, magnificent.
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“[Declan] Rice, [Kalvin] Phillips in the midfield but the player for England and the player of the tournament for me has been Raheem Sterling and we’ll look to him again tonight to lead us.”
Gareth Southgate made just one change to his lineup for the final, omitting Bukayo Saka from the starting XI and starting Kieran Trippier in his place.
The England boss opted to switch to a five-man defence against Italy to help contain their opponents in what is the national team’s biggest match since 1966.
His side have captured the nation’s spirit, and Shearer believes many across the country have fallen back in love with the game as a result.
“Do you know what else they’ve done Gary [Lineker]? They’ve actually restored a lot of people’s faith in football because of the shenanigans that had gone on re the Premier League etc and I think a lot of people have fallen out of love with football.
“Over the past month these players and the manager have made people think again and realise how special football is and can be.”
One difficult decision Southgate had no choice to make was to leave Phil Foden out of the 23-man matchday squad due to injury.
The Man City star sat out training on Saturday and failed a pre-match fitness test over a minor knock.
“It’s very difficult. It’s not something that’s going to keep him out for a long time, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to run properly yesterday,” Southgate said.
“It’s heartbreaking for him and a disappointment for us.”
Assessing the final, Southgate added: “It’s an occasion that, every message you read and everybody you see, gets you more excited about.
“But we have to make good decisions on the field, we’ve got to make sure that we play with discipline.
“We’ve also got to make sure we bring our best game, it’s not a day to sit and be safe and worry about making mistakes. We’ve got to be bold.”