As we approach the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 12, the Sports Unbiased Crew will be releasing guides to help make better sense of what you watch as the world’s best soccer players converge on Brazil this summer. Check in regularly as we preview the eight groups, 32 teams, and key players that will play an integral role in determining the next world champion.
…and a little child shall lead them (Isiah 11:6).
Could this popular biblical phrase apply to the England national team during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil this summer? Could it be that the most dangerous player on a squad full of veterans such as Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Andy Cole, is actually a 19-year old?
But following a breakthrough season in the Barclays Premier League, the buzz surrounding Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling’s role on Roy Hodgson’s England side continues to grow as the tournament draws nearer. The teenager has impressed everyone during England’s training camp ahead of the World Cup, drawing praises from his teammates as well as his manager.
Blessed with speed and strength (which is amazing for someone weighing just 150 pounds), Sterling is viewed by some as the secret weapon of the The Three Lions due to his lack of international experience (just four appearances for the senior side). Many in England hope that Hodgson will show some faith in the young man this summer. It will be interesting to see what impact – if any – he can provide for his country in Brazil.
Before Going Pro
Raheem Sterling was born in Kingston, Jamaica on December 8, 1994. He was raised by his grandmother before moving to London, England at the age of five with his mother.
He began his youth career in 2003 (at the age of nine) with Queens Park Rangers where he spent the next seven seasons. In February 2010 he was signed by Liverpool and then-manager Rafael Benitez and joined their youth squad.
Sterling made his senior debut for Liverpool on March 24, 2012 as a substitute in a league match against Wigan Athletic at the age of 17. He would make his European debut for the club later that year, coming on as a substitute against Belarusian club FC Gomel in a Europa League qualifying match. He scored his first Premier League goal for Liverpool in a 1-nil win over Reading on October 20, 2012, becoming the second youngest player in club history (behind only Michael Owen) to score a goal. In December, he signed a contract extension with Liverpool. He finished the 2012-2013 season with two league goals in 24 appearances.
His performance would take a huge jump the following season under manager Brendan Rodgers. He earned more playing time (as well as starts) as the season wore on, and rewarded the club as his confidence grew. He became a key member of the side that finished second to Manchester City. Sterling finished the season with nine league goals in 30 appearances, including a brace against Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, Liverpool’s opening goal against City on April 13, and another brace (plus an assist) at Norwich City on April 20.
Sterling was named as one of six nominees for the PFA Young Player of the Year award in April (Chelsea’s Eden Hazard took home the honors).
Sterling was initially only eligible to represent Jamaica at the international level, but that changed in 2009 after FIFA agreed to proposals by the football associations of Great Britain to allow players who were educated in their nation for over five years to become eligible for their national team.
Sterling represented England at the under-16 level. He also represented England in the 2011 U-17 World Cup, scoring twice to help England reach the quarterfinals. He made his under-21 debut for England on October 16 2012 as a substitute against Serbia.
One month later, Sterling made his senior debut for England in a friendly away to Sweden. He was made three other appearances since, including a Man of the Match performance in a 1-0 victory over Denmark in a friendly at Wembley Stadium.