One of the standouts in England’s 2-0 victory over Germany earlier this week was Three Lions midfielder and West Ham United star Declan Rice.
Matched up against world class players like Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos and Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka, Rice stood up the daunting challenge and proved his mettle. The Guardian captured the essence of what Rice was facing and how he performed:
Rice did not hide and he did not suffer a rush of blood to the head. He won the ball and moved it on to England’s forwards. Working with Kalvin Phillips, he gradually grew into the contest, stripping Kroos of influence and ensuring that Goretzka’s powerful runs became less of a threat.
The game changed. Rice sensed that it was there to be won and the moment in the second half when he casually took the ball off Thomas Müller before winning a 50-50 with Kroos summed up his positive mindset. He did not hesitate after inviting the challenge from Kroos with a heavy touch. Instead of lunging in, Rice produced a technically assured block tackle, made off with the ball and got his side moving.
Later, with England closing in on victory and a quarter-final with Ukraine in Rome on Saturday, Rice could be seen chasing down Antonio Rüdiger before whipping up the crowd. He had done his job, shutting down Germany’s attacks, laying the foundations for Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling to seal the game with a little help from Jack Grealish and Luke Shaw.
The victory was one that helps establish an identity for a team and Rice’s persistence and activity in midfield — against such lofty competition — solidified his standing on the Three Lions roster.
To best define Rice’s performance, The Guardian simply described his play this way: “He is a player who makes the ugly side of the game look easy.”
Rice did that against Die Mannschaft, but can he exert himself on the game once more against the Ukraine? We’ll soon find out.