clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Video: Raheem Sterling's Wonder Strike

New, comments

Raheem Sterling started his day by drawing a free-kick seconds in as he raced down the left flank. He followed that up by cracking a shot off the post early in the first half before narrowly missing again minutes later. Soon afterwards he set up Everton product Hallam Hope with a superbly chipped cross that the striker directed off the post. Late in the second half he would cap things off with a beautifully curled shot into the top corner from a good thirty yards out. It would have been in the running for Liverpool's goal of the season. There's a decent chance that despite coming on the first day it will go down as the goal of this tournament.

There's a good chance Sterling's effort would be a contender for the goal of any season or tournament anywhere in the world:

Sterling's fine display on the left went on all game, with the Liverpool prospect repeatedly beating Rwanda's right back with pace and guile in a performance whose only shortcoming might have been a hesitance to use his left foot and head outside. Of course he's still only sixteen, and though he doesn't seem likely to be a two-footed player he's still got plenty of time to develop at least enough of a left foot to provide the occasional change of pace and prevent opponents from over-committing. Even if a few more displays like Sunday's might make it hard to remember just how young a player he still is.

Certainly on this day he was a class apart from everybody else on the pitch—both on the England side and on Rwanda. In fact he was frighteningly dominant, and if he can keep anything like this form up for the rest of the tournament the biggest concern won't be his one-footedness but instead keeping those expectations that may already be too high down to merely stratospheric. Because as cliché as it might sound, on Sunday he toyed with his opponents, and for much of the game he was the England attack as time and again his teammates looked to give him the ball as he charged down the right, slalomed through defenders, and alternatingly chipped balls in for his teammates, earned corners and free-kicks, or took aim at goal himself.

It will be difficult, in a game surrounded by hyperbole and hype and demands for instant results, to keep those expectations down. Even last season there were times when a few called for him to be meaningfully included in the first team, and in the future those calls will only increase, as will the already growing drumbeat of England's next superstar. Certainly he is a special player, but one has to remember that even Lionel Messi didn't see action in the slower paced La Liga until he was seventeen. The year afterwards, then, he became a semi-regular contributor, but it still wasn't until he was nineteen that he became anything like a regular starter. The best player of his generation, one of the best of any generation, in a league that for all its appeal is unarguably less physical and frenetic than the Premier League.

So certainly Sterling does look a star in the making, but a bit of perspective will be required if he is to have the chance to truly develop into one rather than finding his growth stunted by being asked to do too much too soon.

As for Liverpool's other prospects on the day, left back Brad Smith started and interchanged well with his academy teammate until suffering a leg injury on 72 minutes, having to be helped off the field with what will at best turn out to have been a bad case of cramping and at worst could be more serious damage to his thigh or hamstring. Liverpool's Matty Regan came on in his place, while striker Adam Morgan came on with five minutes left for a jog. Jack Dunn and backup keeper Tyrell Bedford remained on the bench.

Liverpool's future aside, the u17 World Cup will continue for Sterling and England when they follow up Sunday's 2-0 victory over Rwanda with a match against Canada on Thursday, June 23rd at midnight GMT/7 PM EST before closing out the group against Uruguay on Saturday, June 25th at 9PM GMT/5PM EST.

Here's to a few more good performances. And to somehow keeping expectations at a manageable level: