Rice roundly praised for Italian turn

  • by Staff Writer
  • Thursday, 23rd March 2023

Declan Rice's third goal for his country set England on their way to a first competitive win in Italy since 1961.

The Three Lions beat the Italians 2-1 in Naples thanks to Rice's early opening goal and Harry Kane's penalty later in the half - a goal that made the Tottenham striker the nation's leading all-time goalscorer.

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West Ham's skipper enjoyed a thoroughly productive evening and was one of England's best players as they managed to see off a strong second half comeback from the hosts who grabbed a consolation goal 11 minutes after the restart through debutant Mateo Retegui.

Former Hammer Joe Cole, speaking on Channel 4 after the game led the praise for Rice.

"Declan was the best player on the pitch by a mile," he said. "[It was] terrible defending [by the Italians] for the goal, but he’s alive to it. If it’s a centre-forward we’re talking about instinct. He was outstanding from start to finish.

"All the other players switch off [for the goal]. Rice takes it like a centre-forward. He’s done well there. It's a significant win [for England]."

The Daily Mail's Ian Ladyman also spoke effusively in praise of the West Ham skipper's performance. "The more this team develops under Gareth Southgate, the greater the importance of the central midfielder," he wrote.

"This was Rice’s 40th cap and he is only 24 years old. If Rice doesn’t pass a century by the time he is at his peak then something may have gone wrong.

"Rice scored one, but for this England team that is not his value," he continued. "Rice is the dependable foundation of Southgate’s midfield and once again here he exhibited a maturity of application across two halves of football that could not have been more different."

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Even though England were reduced to ten men with 13 minutes of normal time remaining following the dismissal of Manchester United's Luke Shaw, the Italians - boosted by the arrival of Rice's West Ham team mate Luca Scamacca for the final five minutes - were unable to engineer an equalising goal.

Rice and England will be back in action against on Sunday afternoon when they host Ukraine at Wembley (5pm kick off). The only other game in the European Championship qualifying group C so far saw North Macedonia secure a 2-1 win over group minnows Cyrus.

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