England star Raheem Sterling can frighten any defender at World Cup, says Kyle Walker

james olley
AP

Kyle Walker has claimed Raheem Sterling is capable of frightening any team in the world and backed his Manchester City team-mate to produce his best for England against Panama on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate’s side got off to a winning start in a major finals for the first time since 2006 with a 2-1 win over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday night, courtesy of a brace from captain Harry Kane.

Although the night was a distinctly positive one for England, among the minor disappointments was Sterling’s display. He missed a glorious early chance and faded after an otherwise influential start before being replaced for Marcus Rashford with 21 minutes remaining.

Southgate made a point of consoling Sterling as he left the pitch, but Walker insisted the 23-year-old’s unhappiness was short-lived and believes his stunning form for City last season, in which he scored 18 goals and amassed 11 assists as Pep Guardiola’s side eased to the Premier League title, will soon translate to international level.

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(EPA)

“I’ve played behind Raz all season and it is an absolute joy,” Walker told Standard Sport. “There is nothing he can’t do on a football field.

“He is frightening to play against. I train with him every day, I know what he is like and what he does to defenders, any of them. Raheem is probably disappointed he didn’t score.

“I know he wants goals and he has added goals to his game this season, so that’s probably the only disappointment, but he had a smile on his face in the dressing room when we collected the three points because it is a team game.

In Pictures | Tunisia vs England, World Cup | 18.06.2018

In Pictures | Tunisia vs England, World Cup | 18.06.2018

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“Raheem can’t go out there and win it on his own but he’ll be back. In any case, we are all in it together: we win, lose and draw together.”

Sterling has not scored in his last 21 international appearances but England flew out of the blocks in Volgograd during a scintillating opening 25 minutes in which they could easily have wrapped up the game, only to miss a series of good opportunities.

Sterling, Kane, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard linked up superbly during that period and Walker, who made his first competitive appearances as a right-sided centre-back, believes the team have rarely attacked with more conviction. They had a total of 18 shots with eight on target.

England vs Tunisia | Through the fans eyes

“We looked dangerous,” he said. “We created chance after chance and that is a positive sign. And I don’t think they had a shot on target, other than the penalty. They had two chances, one in the first half, one in the second that went wide. Defensively, we were fine.

“I was comfortable there [at centre-back], I trust everyone around me, which is important. There is more to come from us but this was a step in the right direction.”

England can book their place in the last-16 with a victory in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday, but Walker warned they must not get carried away, despite being heavy favourites to beat Panama.

“It is important to get the three points in the first game because you feel like you are in the tournament, but we still have two important games to play and anything can happen,” he said. “Let’s keep our feet on the floor.”