Sterling: Saka’s brilliant, he’s direct – that’s what you need

Saka was a surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for the final Euro 2020 group match but fully justified his selection with a stellar display.

The Arsenal man, making his first appearance at a major tournament, had played a huge part in Sterling’s winning goal and added some much needed drive and dynamism after the tepid performance in last Friday’s 0-0 draw with Scotland.

“I thought Bukayo Saka was brilliant,” Sterling told the BBC. “I told him after the game that he got in the pockets of space, drove at people, he was direct and that’s what you need. It’s a credit to him.

“He’s tough, he’s funny, he gets on with everyone in the dressing room – I’m buzzing for him.”

The result ensured England finished top of Group D and booked a return to Wembley in the last-16, where they will likely face a European heavyweight in Portugal, France or Germany.

As well as the performance of Saka, one of the big positives for Gareth Southgate was the successful returns from injury of Harry Maguire, who played ninety minutes, and Jordan Henderson, who came on at half-time, with neither having featured in the first two matches.

“We managed the game really well,” Henderson said. “We were solid defensively. We’d have liked to have scored a few more. We can improve in certain areas but we’re pleased with the performance and result. Top of the group is good as well.

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“Bukayo Saka was excellent. Jack Grealish was fantastic. Lots of positives. Raheem Sterling getting his goal as well. We looked sharp at times but we needed to be a bit more clinical and kill the game off.

“[It’s] a big positive [to have the next game at Wembley]. It’s great to have the fans back and hopefully we can give them something to shout about next week.”

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