Wayne Rooney has hit back at critics of Raheem Sterling, insisting there is nothing wrong with the out-of-form England attacker’s attitude.
Sterling started the first two matches of England’s Euro 2016 campaign, but a pair of underwhelming performances saw him hauled off at half-time of the win against Wales and left out of the side which drew with Slovakia last time out.
But as they prepare to face Iceland in Monday’s Round of 16 fixture in Nice, Rooney has jumped to his team-mate’s defence.
“From what I’ve seen his state of mind has been fine,” the England captain told a pre-match press conference on Sunday. “He’s been his usual self around the camp. He’s been the usual Raheem.
“His attitude has been great, and he’s a huge asset to us because he can change a game in a split second. He sticks around after the training to do extra work, and if anyone is questioning his attitude or state of mind, it would be wrong of them.”
Sterling’s troubles have become a talking point at the tournament partly due to England’s inability to convert chances in the final third. Despite dominating possession in all three of their Group B fixtures, they have netted only three goals and won just one game, prompting questions over their competence in attack.
“That happens in football. On the other side of the coin you can be positive and say we’ve dominated the three games we’ve played,” added Rooney.
“But now it’s the knockout stage of the tournament and we don’t have the time to be wasting those chances.”
The 30-year-old was also pressed on whether Iceland are a more favourable opponent than Portugal, who were moments away from edging out the Nordic minnows for second place in Group F, following claims from many England fans that the Portuguese would have provided a tougher prospect.
“For me it’s no different, we have to go out and win the game whether it’s Portugal or Iceland. It will be every bit as difficult as if it was Portugal. We go into the game showing every respect for Iceland, and it’s up to us to work out a way to create chances, score goals and win the game.”
The final Round of 16 fixture takes place at the Allianz Riviera at 21:00 CET on Monday.