World Cup 2014: Raheem Sterling can be England's secret weapon in Brazil, says Glen Johnson

Sterling's absence in the 0-0 draw with Honduras was felt as the Liverpool midfielder is now expected to start in England's first World Cup match against Italy

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The Independent Football

Glen Johnson says that his Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling can be England’s secret weapon at the World Cup finals this month.

The teenager missed last night’s 0-0 draw with Honduras with the suspension picked up for his red card against Ecuador but it is a contender to start against Italy on Saturday in England’s first World Cup finals group game. As a result, England’s World Cup finals opponents, Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica will have seen very little of the 19-year-old.

Johnson said: “He [Sterling] was on fire in training [on Friday] and he looks like he has been around the squad for years. I am never one on one in sessions against him, he wonders all over the field and it is never just me up against him, but in terms in seeing what he can do when he gets on the ball you can see he has learnt the game quickly and he can hurt teams.

“That would ideal if people don’t know what he is capable of and people underestimate him a bit. That would definitely work in our favour. Hopefully it can work in our favour. People may underestimate him and then he can prove them wrong. I think he has looked good all year. He is a young kid who is willing to learn about the game and he should just get better.”

“Probably over 10 yards Raheem is the quickest we have. I think we had a good team when we played Italy last time [at Euro 2012], but now we have more players who can hurt them attacking wise and we have a bit more pace in the squad as well so hopefully we will get further on.

“I don’t think Italy will have met an England team like this before. The team we had before was a good side but maybe it was slightly defensive. If we can defend well now and use some of the pace and ability we have going forward we can cause problems.”

England arrive in Rio de Janeiro this morning with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the only injured payer in the party. He is likely to miss the first two group games. John Stones and John Flanagan, the stand-by players, did not travel on to Brazil. Hodgson can call up replacements up to 24 hours before Saturday’s kick-off against Italy in Manaus.

On Oxlade-Chamberlain, Johnson said: “We have to get our head round what type of injury it is. There are a few question marks around how bad it is and how quickly he can recover. He is well in with the squad, well in with the lads and we try and keep him as happy as possible. He is just as involved as he was, apart from the training sessions.

“Personally he will be gutted and we are gutted for him because you don’t want to be picking up injuries now. I am sure he will be mentally strong and we will be by his side. He was great the other night and you don’t want to lose any player especially with the quality he has got.”