Sterling at heart of England bid despite goal drought

England players training in Russia

The 23-year-old has scored just twice in 42 appearances for England - against modest Lithuania and Estonia - a record that stands in sharp contrast to his increasingly prolific strike rate at club level.

The Manchester City forward was castigated in some quarters as missed chances overshadowed a good overall display in the 2-0 win over Sweden.

Sterling has found his performances being placed under the microscope arguably more than any other England player by certain publications.

Gareth Southgate's men have reached the country's first semi-final at the tournament since 1990 as the team attempt to emulate the all-conquering side of 1966.

"He was a constant threat to Sweden".

Sterling endured vitriolic abuse after a series of tame performances at Euro 2016, and he was widely criticised again ahead of the World Cup for having a tattoo of a gun on his leg.

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However, they will take on a Red Devils squad that is widely regarded as one of the most talented they have ever possessed. Recall that the English team beat Sweden in the quarter-final stage.

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Midfielder Eric Dier says that England and Tottenham Hotspur teammate Kieran Trippier deserves the recognition that he has received for his recent performances.

Sterling is yet to net a goal in the World Cup despite being in the team in four matches out of five and has also been missing goal-scoring opportunities in the tournament on a regular basis.

'Raz, he's a nightmare for us defenders, ' said the defender.

Sterling has never been a popular figure in England, with many Liverpool fans still not over his acrimonious departure to Manchester City two seasons ago.

"They showed from the games I've seen so far that they play direct football and they are very fast".

"I think Raheem Sterling is an important player because he is fast and unsafe alongside Harry Kane", said Dalic ahead of Wednesday's clash in Moscow.

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