AL KHOR, Qatar – England star Raheem Sterling flew home from the World Cup after his home was attacked by armed intruders, head coach Gareth Southgate and the English Football Association confirmed Sunday.
Sterling was left out of the England team for its 3-0 victory over Senegal in the round of 16 after his property just outside London was broken into, while his family was inside, Saturday night.
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“He is on his way home,” Southgate said during his postgame news conference. “We’ve got to give him time to try to resolve that (issue) or be there for his family. We are obviously mindful of him being allowed space and privacy, so we don’t want to talk in too much detail.
“It is not ideal for the group ahead of a big game, but it pales into insignificance. The individual is more important than the group in those moments.”
England eased into Saturday's quarterfinal matchup with France, thanks to goals from Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka — but all thoughts were with Sterling, who moved to London team Chelsea from Manchester City last summer.
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There was no word on whether Sterling, who played a total of 139 minutes during England’s first two games before being rested against Wales, would be able to return to Qatar later in the tournament.
The first time the matter came to light was when the FA released a statement 90 minutes before kickoff that Sterling was out due to a “family matter.” Before long, however, there was further clarification.
“Raheem Sterling missed England’s World Cup win against Senegal after armed intruders broke into his house overnight while his family were there,” read a statement released to the Press Association, an English news agency.
Southgate and Sterling spent significant time together Sunday morning before the winger’s flight back to London, which was hastily arranged by England’s support staff.
Sterling’s primary concern, according to the later statement, was “the well-being of his children.” It added that the player was “understandably shaken.”
If he could come back to Qatar, Sterling remains a valuable option for Southgate due to his speed and trickery with the ball at his feet.
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Dating back more than a decade, Premier League soccer players from high-profile teams have frequently been targeted for home break-ins during game times, Champions League trips or tournaments.