England happy to prove critics wrong as Rice reveals 'togetherness' within squad

By Sports Desk June 29, 2021

England’s last-16 win over Germany at Euro 2020 proved their doubters wrong as Gareth Southgate’s side seized the chance to create their own piece of history at Wembley, according to Declan Rice.

A cagey contest was finally cracked open in the 75th minute when Raheem Sterling scored his third goal of the tournament, making it 15 in his past 20 outings at international level.

Thomas Muller fluffed a glorious chance to equalise before Harry Kane doubled the lead, heading home Jack Grealish’s cross to seal a place in the next round.

England lost on penalties to Germany in the semi-finals of the 1996 edition at the historic venue – albeit it has been rebuilt since then – but Rice was delighted to play his part in a famous triumph, one that was delivered after the squad received criticism for their displays in the group stage.

"It's incredible. A lot of people looked at the end of the group stage and they had written us off," Rice told BBC Sport.

"Complaints about the performances, not scoring enough goals. You read a load of things. But, as players, you put that to the back of your minds and want to prove people wrong.

"I think today, in front of a full house, everyone had that fire in their belly to go out there and, for one, knock Germany out of the tournament and, two, progress to the next round.

"It's history. In the press conferences this week all the players have been asked about the previous games with Germany. Today we created our own bit of history, we've made the most of the opportunity on the pitch."

 

England will play the winners of the clash between Sweden and Ukraine next in Rome, with success on Italian soil then leading to a semi-final appearance back at Wembley.

For Rice, the bond within the squad has built belief that something special can be achieved, particularly with the final also taking place in London.

"We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves. Saturday, we travel to Rome for a massive game and we want to win that and progress to the semi-finals," the West Ham midfielder said.

"All I can say today, is the players, the fans, the occasion, how we were up for in the changing room... I've not been part of a team with a togetherness like this.

"We are all in it with each other, we really believe we have the quality and, with the tournament pretty much being at Wembley, we can keep progressing."

Sterling, who revealed he briefly feared his opening goal was set to be ruled out for an offside decision, made clear how pivotal Rice and midfield partner Kalvin Phillips had been to the victory, the latter regaining possession 11 times - the most by an England player in a European Championship fixture since Tony Adams (13) in 1996.

"We knew the intensity we can play at and not a lot of teams can deal with it," Sterling told BBC Sport. "The two players in midfield, Declan and Kalvin, they ate up the grass and were animals in there.

"We take it game by game, recover and focus for the next one."

England have now kept clean sheets in their opening four matches at a major tournament for just the second time, the other occasion coming when they went on to lift the World Cup in 1966.

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