Raheem Sterling aims to lift his first international trophy at the UEFA Nations League Finals; "we've got a massive opportunity here," he tells UEFA.com.
Article top media content
Winger Raheem Sterling speaks to UEFA.com about the UEFA Nations League and England's prospects of winning their all-important semi-final against the Netherlands.
"The finals? It's massive. That's something I'd love to do with England, with an England shirt on: to lift a trophy. We've got a massive opportunity here, but at the same time we know how difficult it will be.
"[Semi-final opponents the Netherlands] had a period where they rebuilt and I think they look really good as a team. They've got some unbelievable players, attacking players, defenders, and all round their team is solid, as we know from the last time we played them [a 1-0 friendly win in Amsterdam in March 2018]. They're a stronger team now, a better team, and it'll be a massive challenge for us, and it's one that we're up for. [The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum, Ryan Babel and Nathan Aké] play in England as well, so we know exactly what they are capable of.
"[Winning the Nations League] would give the team a lot of confidence. If you can win this, then when you do come in positions in later tournaments, in EUROs and the World Cup, it does give you a positive side, because you've been there already with your national team. Once the first [trophy] comes, I think it's one of those; it'll feel a bit easier and not as pressured to do [it again].
"One thing with this manager and the team: we're all willing to work as hard as we need to. The other teams are working hard, we need to work twice as hard. I remember being with [Gareth Southgate] in the [Under]-21s and it was the same; he came in, he let players enjoy themselves. He gave people that real belief ... and some of the players he had there eventually moved up to the senior squad. A lot of us are under 25 or under 26. He gets on well with young players and he wants to see them do well. He knows exactly what we've got in this country and I see him [bringing] through the right players.
"The games against the best teams and the best players, those are the games – your Spains, your Croatias – that mean a lot more to us because then we know where we're at. To keep developing we are going to have to play these teams more often, because when you get to finals and semi-finals, those are the teams you are going to be playing. So the more we get used to winning games like that, the more confident we'll be as a group when we do come to those situations in bigger tournaments.
"You know it won't be easy [to win the Nations League semi-final], but at the same time we've beaten [the Netherlands] already and played some good football at times, and it's possible again. So I think it's a massive stepping stone for us."