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05th Jul 2018

Raheem Sterling speaks out on that shoulder barge from Colombian coach

He showed incredible maturity not to react

Reuben Pinder

He didn’t let it faze him

England’s win over Colombia on Tuesday night was more akin to a Royal Rumble than a football match, as the Colombian players – and coaches – brought their snide tactics to a game they would have to play without star player James Rodriguez.

Colombia’s below the belt approach was made clear when one of their coaching staff intentionally collided with Raheem Sterling as he was leaving the pitch at half-time.

Gary Neville, who was working as a pundit on ITV, labelled the coach a ‘numpty’ for his actions. It was clear that Colombia were collectively trying to get under the skin of the England players, but failed to do so. England ended up bringing their own frustrating tactics to the game, but never stooped their opponents’ levels.

The Sterling incident was the crux of Colombia’s antics, and Raheem Sterling has spoken about what went through his mind in that moment.

“I just remember running in and someone stepped in front of me,” Sterling said.

“I just kinda looked back at him. But we knew their game plan and what they were trying to do. We knew what would get thrown at us and that was kinda silly from him,” he added.

“We just keep going and black that out and focus on the ­football. They were a physical team. They were trying to do everything they could to get into our heads but we kept cool – and that’s the most important thing.

“Before the tournament the manager gave us ­everything that could be thrown at us – every possibility from going behind to the opposition trying to get you yellow or red cards. I just tried to get on the ball as much as ­possible and to get behind them as well.”

Sterling displayed a maturity beyond his years to not react to the barge, as did the whole team as they kept relatively cool heads in the most high pressure atmosphere most of them will have experienced on a football pitch.