Sterling struggled to hold down a first-team spot at Manchester City towards the end of the season but again proved his worth for England when it mattered, with his third goal of the tournament
England beat Germany on Tuesday for the first time in a knockout match since the 1966 World Cup final to reach the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Wembley clash, which the home side won 2-0.
Sterling the main man as Kane gets off mark
Raheem Sterling was England's only goalscorer in the Euro 2020 group phase, putting captain Harry Kane in the shade.
He was again the main threat for Gareth Southgate's side as they probed for an opening against Germany, looking to run at the defence at every opportunity.
He eventually got the breakthrough his play deserved, turning home Luke Shaw's cross to send the Wembley crowd wild.
Sterling struggled to hold down a first-team spot at Manchester City towards the end of the season but again proved his worth for England when it mattered, with his third goal of the tournament.
Kane has been flat since the start of Euro 2020 following a fine season for Tottenham as goalscorer and provider and again looked out of sorts against Germany.
In the 55 years since @EnglandFootball beat the @DFB_Team in the World Cup final, the Three Lions had endured a painful litany of defeats against Die Mannschaft when the stakes were highesthttps://t.co/OSJmUAcyij— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) June 29, 2021
But he pounced four minutes from time to seal the win for England, stooping to head home Jack Grealish's cross.
Kane has now scored 30 goals for England under Southgate -- in the national side's history, only Gary Lineker scored more under a single manager, with 35 under Bobby Robson.
Jordan Pickford has not been especially busy at Euro 2020 behind an England defence that has been watertight so far but when called upon he has delivered the goods.
The Everton goalkeeper was one of England's heroes during an unexpected run to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
England's number one, who has made a number of high-profile errors at club level in recent years, divides opinion among fans but he has repaid Southgate's faith in him.
Pickford was forced into his first meaningful save just after the half-hour at Wembley, smothering a Timo Werner shot at close range and making another fine stop as he tipped a Kai Havertz pile-driver over his crossbar early in the second half.
@sterling7 opened the scoring for @England with his third goal of the tournament before @HKane silenced his critics to seal a 2-0 win four minutes from time against @DFB_Team @DFB_Team_EN @EURO2020 https://t.co/fNFHi9JzUV— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) June 29, 2021
Germany's performance against England was summed up by one moment late in the game when Thomas Mueller was through on goal with a chance to equalise.
But the Bayern Munich man dragged it wide to the immense relief of the crowd of 40,000 fans inside Wembley.
The visitors had started well, putting early pressure on England, with Werner and Havertz looking dangerous against a side struggling to adjust to a new formation.
But as the match wore on Joachim Loew's men ran out of ideas and despite the late, clear chance for Mueller, they rarely looked like scoring.
For Germany manager Loew, it was a disappointing end to his reign, which hit its high point when Germany won the 2014 World Cup.
The defeat also raises searching questions for Germany as they ponder a new direction under incoming coach Hansi Flick.