England vs Italy: John Stones paying no attention to Raheem Sterling criticism ahead of Euro 2020 final

John Stones is paying no attention to the criticism of Raheem Sterling for winning England’s decisive penalty in the Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark, and believes that it was the correct decision to award the spot-kick.

Sterling has been accused of diving in some quarters after going down under the challenges of Joakim Maehle and Mathias Jensen, with the Italian press particularly critical before Sunday’s final at Wembley against Roberto Mancini’s side.

Corriere dello Sport described the decision by referee Danny Makkelie as “very generous” after a “doubtful contact”.

Meanwhile, La Gazzetta dello Sport claimed that “there was no foul” on Sterling, while also suggesting that Uefa were “returning a favour” to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for having opposed the European Super League.

Harry Kane missed the penalty but converted the rebound to earn England a 2-1 win in extra time. Sterling insisted after the final whistle that he had been fouled, even though television replays only showed minimal contact.

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When asked whether he was bothered by the criticism of his Manchester City and international team-mate, Stones said: “Definitely not. I think it was a penalty.

“I am biased but I saw it back and I think the referee made the correct decision, or VAR made the correct decision.

“It is something I dont want to get into or be swayed by, I suppose. My opinion is that it was a correct decision and he has been bumped from two sides.”

Stones also believes that Sterling should be named as Euro 2020’s player of the tournament, having scored three goals, set up another and performed at a consistently high level. Sterling is the favourites among bookmakers, with Kane following in behind.

“I’ve said it all along that I’m a big fan of Raheem’s,” Stones said. “I’d definitely love to see him get player of the tournament with what he’s done for us and the unselfish part of his game goes unspoken about. As players we see it.

“He’s been a great threat going forward and how direct he’s been in the games. It’s been great playing with him and I’m sure he’ll be giving everything on Sunday and being direct, hopefully he’ll get another goal and see where it takes us.”

Like Stones, Sterling has had to put up with limited playing opportunities at City, having fallen out of favour under Pep Guardiola towards the end of the season. His Etihad team-mate believes that disappointment has only spurred him on with England.

“I couldnt be happier for him,” Stones said.

“He has gone through some difficult times personally and I can only kind of speak from my point of view and what I have been through, you can see it has motivated him and he has come out the other end a better player and that is what top players do.

“They define something or they find a way when things aren’t going well to succeed and excel as a player and a person. Raheem has done that on and off the pitch. All I can say is that he really deserves it.”

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