Raheem Sterling is desperate to fulfil his dream of lifting a trophy with England this summer.
The inaugural Nations League finals in Portugal offer Gareth Southgate’s men the chance to win the Three Lions’ first competitive trophy since the World Cup triumph of 1966.
The magnitude of victory in this competition is unlikely to become clear for years to come, but becoming the first nation to win the tournament is sure to put continental rivals on notice ahead of Euro 2020.
Sterling believes the Nations League provides a huge opportunity for England, with the forward determined to follow a medal-laden season with Manchester City by ending the country’s trophyless run.
‘The finals? It’s massive,’ he said. ‘That’s something I’d love to do with England, with an England shirt on to lift a trophy. We’ve got a massive opportunity here, but at the same time we know how difficult it will be.
‘[Winning the Nations League] would give the team a lot of confidence. If you can win this, then when you do come in positions in later tournaments, in Euros and the World Cup, it does give you a positive side because you’ve been there already with your national team.
‘Once the first comes, I think it’s one of those; it’ll feel a bit easier and not as pressured to do [it again].’
Portugal or Switzerland await in the Estadio do Dragao final, but progress is far from a certainty for England, given that ever-improving Holland stand in their way in Thursday’s semi-final.
Ronald Koeman’s first match in charge ended in a 1-0 friendly defeat to England in Amsterdam, but 15 months on things have improved markedly as young talents rally to complement experienced players.
‘[Holland] had a period where they rebuilt, and I think they look really good as a team,’ Sterling told Uefa.
‘They’ve got some unbelievable players, attacking players, defenders, and all round their team is solid, as we know from the last time we played them. They’re a stronger team now, a better team, and it’ll be a massive challenge for us, and it’s one that we’re up for.’
Sterling is sure to play a key role for England this summer as Southgate looks to cap the national team’s progress with silverware.
‘One thing with this manager and the team, we’re all willing to work as hard as we need to,’ the forward added.
‘The other teams are working hard, we need to work twice as hard. I remember being with [Southgate] in the U21s and it was the same; he came in, he let players enjoy themselves.
‘He gave people that real belief… and some of the players he had there eventually moved up to the senior squad. A lot of us are under 25 or under 26.
‘He gets on well with young players and he wants to see them do well. He knows exactly what we’ve got in this country and I see him [bringing] through the right players.’
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