Hodgson has been full of praise for Sterling’s performances in training this week and now the winger has a chance to show he can cut it on the biggest stage in world football.
The 19-year-old midfielder was handed just his third England start in an attack-minded XI, which contained five Liverpool players in total.
England were expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in Manaus, where temperatures exceeded 30 degrees Celsius.
Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney started alongside Sterling in a three-pronged forward line behind main striker Daniel Sturridge.
Naming such a pacy front four was a bold move by England manager Hodgson - a man often criticised for being too conservative.
Jordan Henderson’s fine season with Liverpool earned him a place in midfield alongside captain Steven Gerrard, who won his 112th cap.
There were no surprises in defence as Hodgson selected Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka at centre-back.
Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines started at right and left-back respectively while Joe Hart made his first World Cup appearance in goal.
England were handed a massive boost before kick-off when Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon was ruled out with an ankle injury.