Declan Rice takes England captaincy on 50th appearance and ready to 'deliver history' at Euro 2024

Mon, Mar 25, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Declan Rice takes England captaincy on 50th appearance and ready to 'deliver history' at Euro 2024

The milestones are coming around quickly for Declan Rice.

Firstly there was the first trophy of his career, won with West Ham in the Europa Conference League final in May.

Then came a big-money move to a leading European team, with Arsenal paying $138 million for his services in July.

And on Tuesday, there's what he says will be a "pinch-me moment" - leading England out as a captain in his 50th appearance for his country.

How about finishing the biggest year of his life by helping to end England's nearly 60-year wait for a trophy?

For Rice, that could happen at the upcoming European Championship in Germany.

"It's the talk of the town before every major tournament for England - that's the pressure with playing for England," Rice said Monday. "But I think if you look at the players we have now, look at the level everyone is playing in terms of form, getting close at a World Cup in losing narrowly to France (in the 2022 quarterfinals), lost the Euro (2020) final. I think we are close now. We really are close.

"Going into this tournament now, we also have major winners, people who have been there and done it at the highest stage. It all counts on us at the end of the day. We're the ones who have to go out there and perform and I'm sure we're capable of going to Germany to deliver history."

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Rice wears his heart on his sleeve and holds nothing back, whether it's out on the soccer field or speaking in front of the media.

His face was a picture when, sitting alongside Gareth Southgate at Wembley Stadium on Monday, the England coach said the midfielder would be captain for the first time against Belgium the following day.

"Speechless, to be honest with you," said Rice, beaming from ear to ear.

Southgate clearly sees the 24-year-old Rice as being ready to move into England's core leadership group, joining the likes of regular captain Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire - all of whom are missing Tuesday's match because of injury.

Rice has taken his game to another level since joining Arsenal, showing he is capable of playing as the holding midfielder or further forward as one of the No. 8s. He has already played 45 games for club and country this season and the big ones are still to come, with Arsenal still in the hunt for the Premier League and Champions League and England among the favorites for Euro 2024.

Does he fear burnout? Not at all.

"I absolutely love it, to be honest with you," he said. "Every time you put on the shirt, for England or for Arsenal, it is an absolute honor and I want to play as many games as possible. ... Hopefully I have a long list of trophies to come as well."

A 1-0 loss to Brazil in a friendly on Saturday was, however, a reminder that England is far from the finished article, even if Southgate does have a long list of injuries to contend with. Indeed, the coach said he has never seen anything like it in his eight years in the job.

Southgate said it at least gives him a chance to check out some fringe players a few months out from the Euros and they include Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who is set to either start or see a decent amount of playing time against Belgium.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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