The football community is rallying around Raheem Sterling after the England star rushed home from the World Cup in Qatar to deal with a terrifying situation involving his wife and kids. The Chelsea star was a shock omission from the England side that booked its place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a 3-0 win over Senegal in the round of 16.
England were impressive against the dangerous Senegal, with Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka all finding the net against the African champions. Playing in their first knockout match on the world stage since the agonising extra-time, 2018 semi-final loss to Croatia, Gareth Southgate’s men showed their quality to progress in Qatar.
One man that was expected to feature in the last-16 clash against Senegal was Sterling, who flew home from Qatar before the match due to "a family matter", according to the English Football Association. Reports in Britain later emerged that Sterling's home had been broken into by armed intruders, while his fiancée and young children were inside the property on Saturday night.
The UK's Sun reported that a gang of armed thieves broke into the footballer's mansion while fiancée Paige Milian and their children were still home. The gang allegedly stole $542,000 worth of watches, before the alarm was raised.
"At the moment clearly the priority is for him to be with his family. We're going to support that and leave him to have as much time as he needs," England manager Gareth Southgate said.
"At the moment it's a situation he needs time with his family to deal with and I don't want to put him under any pressure with that. Sometimes football isn't the most important thing and family should come first."
The frightening news sparked an outpouring of support for Sterling and his family, with football fans crossing their fingers that he can return to Qatar in time for England's quarter-final against France on Sunday morning (AEDT).
Raheem Sterling expected back for France quarter-final
Sterling is expected to return to Qatar in time for England's quarter-final against France on Sunday morning (AEDT). He has been a key player for England during Southgate's six years in charge. The 27-year-old has 20 goals in 81 caps for his country, including one at the 2022 World Cup in a 6-2 victory over Iran.
However, Sterling may have already been squeezed out of Southgate's starting line-up for the last eight even if he does return to Qatar by the fine form of Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden.
"It didn't impact the team selection," Southgate said. "I spent a lot of time with Raheem this morning," Southgate added about the Chelsea forward.
"We are obviously mindful of him being allowed space and his privacy respected. He's heading home to England. It's not ideal for the group ahead of a big game but it pales into insignificance. The individual is more important than the group in that situation."
England's 3-0 win over Senegal saw Kane become the nation's highest ever scorer at major tournaments after Henderson opened the scoring, with Saka superbly wrapping up a comfortable victory at Al Bayt Stadium. The reward is a return to Al Khor for England's historic first ever World Cup knockout match against France, in the last-eight.
France were the first to book their place in the quarter-finals after a historic goal from Olivier Giroud and an exquisite brace from Kylian Mbappe sealed the 3-1 win over Poland, who added a stoppage time consolation goal through Robert Lewandowski. Les Bleus had to dig deep but scored on the stroke of halftime as Giroud became the nation's all-time top goalscorer, his 52nd goal for France surpassing the record he shared with legendary striker, Thierry Henry. Mbappe's 74th-minute and stoppage-time screamers sealed Poland's fate.
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