After the March internationals and West Ham United’s Declan Rice’s first two England appearances against the Czech Republic and Montenegro respectively, the latter of which he started, it became apparent that the 20-year-old was now a first choice in central defensive midfield for Gareth Southgate.
And that was proved once again on Thursday evening with the Academy of Football product starting for the Three Lions in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals against the Netherlands.
The centre-back turned midfielder was played in a line of three in front of the defence, sandwiched between Fabian Delph of Manchester City and Ross Barkley of Chelsea.
It was Rice who shone the brightest out of the trio in the 3-1 loss, which saw a Matthijs de Ligt header, a Kyle Walker own-goal and Quincy Promes finish cancel out a first-half Marcus Rashford penalty on a calamitous night for England’s defence.
However, the former Republic of Ireland man still found himself on the end of some harsh words from around the footballing world for his display, being accused of starting too slowly, being too negative and not offering enough of an option out for the centre-backs as the centre of the park was dominated by Ronald Koeman’s men.
Declan Rice was the root of the problem all night. Stones and maguire couldn’t play through him because he simply just passed it back to them. So making them nervous and not knowing what to do with ball. Added to that let players run off him all night. He was simply dreadful ⚽️
— TAS?⚪️ (@coys100) June 6, 2019
Only if you want sideways and backwards Moose
— Steven Harris (@HarrisS27) June 7, 2019
Declan Rice lost that game for us tonight. Utterly useless #England
— Jordan (@JordyWol92) June 6, 2019
However, the WhoScored statistics in the above infographic prove that Rice’s critics are wrong to hound his performance against the Dutch in his nation’s second successive major semi-final defeat.
In 106 minutes on the pitch before being replaced by Dele Alli at half-time in extra-time, the number 16 maintained a highly impressive 96% pass success rate.
He also registered two tackles and weighed in with a team-high four interceptions on his Nations League debut.
Rice achieved all of this without giving away one foul, a show of perfect timing from the man tipped to follow in the footsteps of the late great Bobby Moore by none other than Jamie Carragher (Sky Sports via Football.London).
What really makes people who were accusing him of being negative look stupid is the fact the he attempted two dribbles, from the holding midfield role.
These figures prove that Rice was far from poor in the biggest match of his career so far, and in fact he was one of his side’s best performers on the evening and the finger of blame truly deserves to be pointed elsewhere.