Expectations are high for England ahead of Euro 2020 and Raheem Sterling feels no differently.
The Three Lions have never been European champions but are one of the favourites ahead of the tournament, which kicks off on Friday.
There’s no standout favourite to win the competition but Sterling believes England must be one of the teams challenging for the trophy this summer.
“When I was first came into the national team I wouldn’t dare to say ‘we should be doing this, we should be doing that,’” Sterling told talkSPORT.
“But with the players that we’ve got, of course the most important thing is to try and get out of the group, but we want to be challenging, we want to get to the final.
“That’s the whole reason why the FA and everyone set up that beautiful building (St George’s Park) so we’re as comfortable as possible. We have to be challenging, simple as that.”
Sterling has no issue with the weight of expectation on England this summer[/caption]
England’s campaign begins on Sunday as they take on Croatia in their Group D opener, LIVE on talkSPORT.
It will be a particularly special tournament for the England players as all their group matches will be played on home soil.
Their last-16 clash – should they make it – could also be at Wembley, while both semi-finals and the final will also be staged there.
And Sterling admits playing at the national stadium, next to where he grew up, is a ‘dream’.
“I can’t wait, I actually can’t wait. It’s been a long season but I’m here with England now,” Sterling added.
“It’s been a good season with Man City, we’ve won trophies, although disappointing we didn’t get the Champions League.
“I’m playing at Wembley, the team’s playing at Wembley, it’s what dreams are made of. I’m going into this in a lovely mindset.”
While Sterling will head into the tournament as a Premier League title winner, his season ended on a disappointing note as Man City were beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League final.
But the 26-year-old has moved on from that and is only focused on helping England to glory.
“I am feeling good. It is all about mentality,” he said.
“You can play a lot of games but if mentally you are not happy, if mentally you are down, okay the tournament could be physically demanding. But if you are happy and raring to go, that is the most important thing.
“It is where your head is at and mind space. And right now my mindset is smile and be happy.”
Sterling lost his status as a guaranteed starter at Man City in the second half of the 2020/21 season, leading to talk he could be off in the summer.
Asked how he blocks out speculation over his future, he replied: “Do what they done before we had social media. Don’t check anything, don’t look at anything. That’s the most important thing.”
With 61 caps, Sterling is one of the most experienced players in the England squad but has a battle on his hands to keep his starting spot this summer with such an array of attacking talent at Gareth Southgate’s disposal.
Does he have any fears over his place?
“I started playing when I was 17 years of age, never have I looked and said, ‘Oh, I’m not going to play or am I going to play’. Just enjoy football. It’s not that serious,” he said.
talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2 will have live commentary of EVERY game of Euro 2020. You won’t miss a thing as we bring you round the clock coverage, reaction and analysis from June 11-July 11. Listen online HERE.
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