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Rice: England aren’t too tired to make Euros mark

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Rice: England aren't too tired to make Euros mark

Declan Rice has rubbished suggestions England’s players are too tired to make their mark at Euro 2024.

After a narrow victory over Serbia and a 1-1 draw with Denmark, manager Gareth Southgate said his team cannot commit to a pressing game because of their fitness levels.

England’s performances, especially against Denmark, have seen Southgate and his players come in for stinging criticism.

Speaking after the game in Frankfurt, Southgate conceded: “We are not pressing well enough, with enough intensity. We have limitations in how we can do that with the physical condition.”

Southgate’s comments led to plenty of post-match discussion focused specifically on England’s lack of press when out of possession.

Rice, though, refuted claims that England’s players are exhausted after demanding club campaigns.

“If I wasn’t fit enough or the lads weren’t fit enough we shouldn’t be here in the first place,” he said.

“We should be able to compete for seven games, whether they go to extra time, we have got a squad of 26 players that are fit enough, strong enough, fast enough and ready to go the whole way.

“It’s ridiculous. Let them keep questioning it. We are built to play these types of seasons.

“Because we are sitting in a low block people automatically assume we are tired and leggy and not fit enough – if we’re not fit enough to compete for 90 minutes, we shouldn’t be footballers.”

England’s place in the round of 16 was secured without them kicking a ball on Monday as Albania failed to beat Spain.

Rice admitted he wants England to play with more freedom when they face Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday night.

“That is what we are all looking forward to doing tomorrow,” he said, speaking before England’s last-16 berth was guaranteed.

“Going out there free in a way and perform and show everyone that we can be the team that we are trying to be.

“You see the lads that train and the lads that are expected to win the games for us, they look frightening, they look on it, scoring goals, playing really well and playing with confidence.

“What I mean by playing free is that we have had two games now, first one we won, second one we drew and didn’t play our best.

“It is a chance, because we are pretty much qualified, to go out there and just express yourself and have that performance where you can make an impact and get us through top of the group.”

Instead of being concerned about his physical wellbeing, Rice admits the amount asked of current players can take its toll mentally.

When it was put to him that the Slovenia game will be his 126th in the last two years, the Arsenal midfielder replied: “That is a crazy stat about the games, I can understand why it could come across that way but I think we have got a squad here that is prepared to go 120 minutes in the knockouts.

“It’s a crazy schedule but for me I think physically I can cope with it. It’s more the mental demands. The side of it people don’t see. You’re travelling, hotels, you’re away from families.

“It is more the mental side for me than the physical side that I struggle to cope with sometimes but I’ve definitely got better at that as my career’s gone on.”

The scrutiny on the team in Germany has only been increased recently by the comments of Gary Lineker, the former England striker, who labelled the performance against Denmark as “s***” on his ‘The Rest is Football’ podcast.

“I suppose it can do,” Rice replied when it was put to him that such criticism from ex-international players can only exacerbate any mental health concerns in camp.

“But I think what we’ve got here is such good togetherness. If you guys came into camp and watched us for the day you’d be like watching a bunch of kids at nursery.

“We are having a lot of fun off the pitch. It’s just like you said, physically we’re in a great position where we can play so many games, it’s just you always have to check up on each other, I think that’s so important, especially at tournaments.

“You’re here on your own, you don’t really get to see family, some lads haven’t had minutes yet.

“It’s so important we stay together as a group because mentally you can start to get away with things and that’s where I think we’re really good as a group, we’ve all got each other’s backs, which is the main thing.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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