England defender Kyle Walker believes the pain of defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 has helped the class of 2018 develop a tough mental edge.
In the end, England required poise and patience to come through against Tunisia as the players displayed a resolve sorely lacking when humiliated by Iceland at Euro 2016.
“I think we’ve learned a lot,” said Walker, one of the starters in Nice. “The team has evolved massively from the Iceland game. I think that was proved against Tunisia.
“The board went up. I didn’t realise. We just kept to our game plan, we didn’t panic or anything, we got the goal at the end of it.
Meanwhile Raheem Sterling has praised England as a country where “a naughty boy who comes from nothing can live his dream”.
As the 23-year-old England international, who helped Manchester City claim the Premier League last season, prepares for Sunday’s clash with Panama, he reflected on his difficult childhood, which saw him arrive in the country from Jamaica at the age of five and struggle to fit in at school.
Sterling’s father was murdered when he was two and, shortly afterwards, his mother took the difficult decision to leave him and his sister with their grandmother and travel to England to study for a degree in order to better provide for her family.
With the family having eventually been reunited in London, he was initially removed from his primary school, because of his behaviour, but eventually knuckled down and, in football, found a platform upon which to make his name.
In an interview with the Players’ Tribune, he said: “I’m telling you right now, England is still a place where a naughty boy who comes from nothing can live his dream.”
Sterling also expressed gratitude to his mother Nadine, recalling the days when he and and his older sister Lakima used to go to work with her at 5am before school at her job as a hotel cleaner.
“Fifteen years ago, we were cleaning toilets in Stonebridge and getting breakfast out of the vending machine. If anybody deserves to be happy, it’s my mum. She came to this country with nothing and put herself through school cleaning bathrooms and changing bed sheets and now she’s the director of a nursing home. And her son plays for England.”
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