After reaching the World Cup semi-finals and the inaugural Nations League Finals during an impressive 2018, England kicked off their Euro 2020 journey at the ground where the trophy will be lifted in 478 days’ time.
Sterling netted three and won the first-half penalty converted by captain Harry Kane, with 18-year-old debutant Callum Hudson-Odoi getting away the shot that led Czech Republic defender Tomas Kalas to rather comically turn into his own goal as the match finished 5-0.
Jadon Sancho was handed his first competitive start at the age of 18 and the forward flourished in the spotlight, providing the final ball of a 25-pass move that Sterling tapped home at the far post to open the scoring.
Sterling won a first-half stoppage-time spot-kick, smashed home by Kane to make it 2-0 and the first competitive meeting of these countries was soon out of the Czechs’ reach.
Sterling displayed a t-shirt paying tribute to 13-year-old Damary Dawkins, who died on Sunday after a battle with leukaemia, after netting the third, before completing his first England hat-trick as his strike went in off Ondrej Celustka.
Former Republic of Ireland international Declan Rice – subject of scrutiny after old social media posts appearing to show support for the IRA resurfaced – was on the pitch for his debut by the time the fourth goal went in.
Fellow new boy Hudson-Odoi helped wrap things up, with his shot leading to Kalas’ own goal on the night he replaced Duncan Edwards as England’s youngest ever debutant in a competitive game.
It was a superb start to Group A for England and saw under-fire Jordan Pickford keep the clean sheet he had pledged to dedicate to World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who died last month.
Sterling told ITV afterwards: “It was a beautiful team performance and I was happy to help the team. Most importantly we got the win and that’s the most important thing.”
On his own performance he added: “I’m just being confident with myself. Being there and trying to get in areas and trying to take shots and not worry about anything, just go with it. That’s it.”
On his tribute to Dawkins, a Crystal Palace youth-team player, Sterling added: “Damary was a kid that I was trying to help and we thought that we found a donor and sadly it didn’t match and he sadly passed away.
“I thought I had to do something to try to give his family something to smile about.”