England’s Raheem Sterling will light up World Cup 2018 predicts Manchester City pal and group foe Kevin de Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne has hailed Raheem Sterling as a “special player” and backed his Manchester City ­team-mate to “light up the World Cup”.

Sterling enjoyed his finest season in City’s Premier League title-winning campaign, plundering 23 goals for Pep Guardiola’s rampant, record-breaking side.

Against that backdrop, Sterling has travelled to the World Cup full of confidence, with club-mate turned group-phase rival De Bruyne convinced the 23-year-old England star can bring his majestic club form to the biggest stage of all.

“He’s a special player,” said the Belgium midfielder. “This season he was playing at such a high level and he’s only going to get better.

Sterling and De Bruyne have worked together to make City champions but only one can win on June 28
(Image: Getty)

“He’s a winner — any criticism he has faced in the last few weeks I know he will just ignore.

“At Manchester City he’s so focused on success and I know he would have the same attitude with England.

“He scored many goals last season, but he scored important goals too — goals that won games in the last minute – and that takes a special type of player.

“On the big occasions he has the confidence — that is why I think he will light up the World Cup.”

Sterling grabbed a stoppage-time winner at Bournemouth last August…
(Image: PA)
…then grabbed three late deciders in as many November games against Feyenoord…
(Image: AFP)
…away to Huddersfield, as City came from a goal down for victory…
(Image: Getty)
…and then again to deny Southampton a point at the Etihad
(Image: AFP/Getty)

Sterling and De Bruyne’s club allegiance will be put to one side on June 28, when England take on Belgium in a game that could decide who wins Group G.

And De Bruyne will provide his countrymen with all the first-hand information they need on Sterling in a bid to nullify his threat as one of England’s most dangerous players.

Having played a part in creating a clutch of Sterling’s goals last season, De Bruyne – City’s Player of the Year – knows his club colleague’s game inside-out and why Belgium must try to starve him of the ball.

De Bruyne and talent-packed Belgium are fancied to go a long way at Russia 2018
(Image: AFP/Getty)

“For me, he’s a pleasure to play with,” said De Bruyne. “He makes such intelligent runs, he pulls away from defenders with ease, and you know, if you give Raheem a good ball, then there’s a big chance he’s going to do something with it.

“England have some creative midfield players – and if they can create chances for him, then they can do well.”

Given the array of glittering talent within their ranks, which includes Premier League stars De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, Belgium have been perennial ­­underachievers when it comes to major tournaments.

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World Cup 2018

They reached the quarter-finals at the last World Cup and Euro 2016, with De Bruyne claiming Roberto Martinez’s side are finally ready to prove their worth as major tournament contenders and fulfil their huge potential.

“We know this Belgium squad is special and, of course, we’re desperate to win a trophy,” added the 26-year-old.

“We have the belief, but there can only be one nation that wins the World Cup – but we’re ready for the fight.”

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