Rice has perfect response after ‘harsh’ Souness slammed his scoring ability
DECLAN RICE delivered a huge grin as he slid on his knees with fists clenched.
All that was missing was a middle finger for Graeme Souness.
In one of the better performances from an England team in a qualifier for many years — maybe going back to the 5-1 win at Germany in 2001 — West Ham man Rice answered fierce criticism from the former Liverpool midfield in magnificent fashion.
Here in Naples, the home of pizza, Rice was better than pasta.
The Three Lions midfielder delivered the performance of his international career.
And that includes the three he made for the REPUBLIC OF IRELAND!
And this mature, all-action display came just 24 hours after Rice insisted some heavy criticism from Souness was “harsh” and here was clearly out to prove a point.
Previously, Souness — who won five titles and three European Cups with the Reds — said: “This role is a vital part of any team because it’s multi-dimensional.
“You are creative, you chip in with goals and you’ve got a defensive head at all times.
“Even when you’re on the front foot, you are thinking: ‘We are vulnerable if we lose possession’.
“If you’ve got all three of those attributes, you’re worth your weight in gold. For me, Rice has just one of them.”
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So after just 13 minutes, Rice drilled a shot through a host of Italian shirts to record only his third goal for England and his first since scoring against Hungary in a World Cup qualifier in September 2021.
It eased England’s nerves after a ropey start. Yet it was Rice’s all-round game which was outstanding as he put on a midfield masterclass.
The 24-year-old was booked for time-wasting after the opening goal, which seemed a bit harsh but Harry Maguire had also been warned.
Maybe that booking took the slight edge off his game physically but even so, he remained calm and kept his head, unlike Luke Shaw.
Rice took control, won the big challenges, picked up the second balls and drove his way past those in blue shirts. He also needed a performance like this to lift his season as he looks to end the campaign without a relegation on his CV.
By his own admission, for some periods with the Hammers he has struggled although equally, he claimed Souness has missed the better displays.
Rice’s performance against the European champions, even though they were largely unimpressive until waking up in the second half, will have been of particular interest to clubs such as Arsenal who will make an attempt to sign him in the summer.
Even when Italy pulled a goal back through Mateo Retegui on 56 minutes, Rice was the only England player to signal for his team to stay focused and keep their shape.
Harry Kane is now England’s record scorer and will remain the country’s captain for as long as he starts.
Yet there is no doubt that Rice will be the next player who will eventually take the prized armband.
Equally, it is important that Rice stays fit because, worryingly, the options for Southgate in this position are not great.
This was summed up with fellow midfielder Kalvin Phillips appearing despite not having started a single Premier League game since his summer move from Leeds to Manchester City.
It was no surprise that Phillips — who has only started two cup games for Pep Guardiola — looked way off the pace in the opening exchanges and was a liability, although the 27-year-old did improve as the game progressed and fought hard at the end.
To their credit, Gareth Southgate’s team, like Rice, stood firm when in previous years, they would have folded. Particularly after the sending-off of Shaw with ten minutes left, and England reverted to five at the back.
Rice had to work hard to earn his 40th cap, although let us not forget this was his 43rd international appearance, as three of them were wearing a green shirt.
Because each and every time he plays for England — and plays like this — you can only imagine how much of a kick in the guts it must be for everyone who follows the Irish.
Source: The Sun
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