Monday, July 15, 2024

Rice: England would ´do anything to protect´ Southgate

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 30 Jun 2024

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England avoided an early exit at Euro 2024 after last-gasp Jude Bellingham heroics and Declan Rice says the Three Lions “would do anything to protect” manager Gareth Southgate.

Ivan Schranz’s first-half opener seemed to have Slovakia on course for a shock last-16 upset, only for Bellingham to rifle home a remarkable 94th-minute leveller in Gelsenkirchen.

Bellingham’s eye-catching overhead kick sent the tie to extra time, in which Harry Kane headed home just 50 seconds into the additional 30 minutes at Arena AufSchalke on Sunday.

England have now won their last four games having conceded first at the European Championship, after losing their first six such matches, and Rice says that battling performance was for the under-fire Southgate.

“I cannot describe the feeling representing England in the European Championship round of 16, you look up at the clock and you think ‘we could be going home here’,” Rice told BBC Sport.

“Players are saying that to each other with one minute to go and there is that inner fight and spirit in us.

“We have got that togetherness tonight, we would do anything to protect this manager. Keep going and keep fighting, it is an honour to be a part of it – we are going to keep going.”

Bellingham’s stunning leveller, timed at 94 minutes and 34 seconds, marked England’s latest goal at the European Championship.

Arsenal midfielder Rice says that only serves to highlight the bravery of Bellingham, who etched his name into England folklore with what Kane earlier described as one of the country’s best goals in history.

“It is crazy because if that was me that was going over the bar,” Rice joked.

“It was a big moment for him, at 21 years old that takes a lot of guts. People don’t understand what you have to go through to get over the line.

“We are not playing against invisible men. They are top footballers, they kept going after us. It is about waiting for those moments as the game got stretched we created more.

“The fans tonight I cannot speak highly enough of them. So grateful they are all here to experience that.”

Rice was part of a confrontation with Slovakia manager Francesco Calzona at full-time, with England in celebratory mood after setting up a last-eight meeting with Switzerland on Saturday in Dusseldorf.

Calzona was left disheartened, too, after feeling his side were equal to Southgate’s men.

“We played on par basically with England, we almost qualified,” Calzona told reporters. “We were very nearly there, unfortunately things went the way they did.

“I’m very proud to see this team do so well, the other team sending on defenders to preserve their result.”

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