December is now with us and that means that the first ever winter World Cup out in Qatar is now in full flow and as West Ham United fans know, midfielder Declan Rice has played a key part in Gareth Southgate’s Group B games for England, and they opened with a good victory over Iran, before playing out a bore and scoreless draw with the United States, before finally securing qualification through to the knockout stages of the tournament with a good second half victory over Wales in a home nations tie.
With Southgate already knowing that it will be another tough clash with African champions Senegal at the last 16 stage, one thing playing in England’s favour is that former Liverpool and now Bayern Munich attacker, Sadio Mane, has already been ruled out with an injury.
With West Ham’s Rice featuring in all three games so far, now we know England have passed the first hurdle, with build up to Sunday’s clash with Senegal now underway, the 23 year old talent has been in front of the media, discussing both his own experiences of the European Championship Final where Southgate substituted him off in the second half, and how he feels that England should be a side to be feared now we are through to the next stage of the competition. Fans will be hoping he returns in good confidence for the remainder of our year as after a poorer than hoped for start, fans who like a flutter will bet on Westham matches in the hope we start racking up the wins.
Having been replaced in the 74th minute back at Euro 2020 as Jordan Henderson came on the pitch, Rice admits that particular moment ‘drives’ him on for more now, but at the same time it is a team sport and he respects Southgate wanting to change and freshen things up.
“It drives me on a lot as you obviously don’t want to get taken off in any game let alone a final. Obviously the manager has seen something and that is absolutely fine in that game. In terms of the World Cup and a tournament for England we have such good players on the bench that if someone can come on and do something different than I do and it helps the team then I am happy for that. If it means we win or win the World Cup that is all I want to happen.”
With Rice again being substituted in the second half against Wales as Southgate presumably gave him a short rest and also took the opportunity to get some match minutes into Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips given his own injury issues this year, he went on to add.
“I think that was to maybe manage my load. My record for playing games speaks for itself. I have played now consistently for three years 50 to 60 games a season. I keep my body really fresh, recovering the best I can and if I am needed for 90 minutes then I am in a position to do that.”
Moving onto England’s chances now we are in the later rounds, he felt the squad was full of ‘world class talent’ and other sides should be in fear for our chances of success. After the Nations League campaign there will be fans who feel differently in fairness.
“Other nations will look at our quality – and why should we not be feared? If you look at our attacking talent, we have world-class talent. Across the board we have players who have won the biggest trophies. It is up to us to prove that. The likes of France have done that. We’re not just here to get into the last 16, we want to go the whole way.”
Let us just hope England do not put in another USA performance this Sunday or this interview might not age well. From West Ham’s perspective, we would just like to see him return fit.
Photo by Unsplash