David Moyes has been given reason to worry over Declan Rice’s form, after the West Ham United powerhouse offered zero cohesion in the England midfield as the Three Lions were beaten 2-0 by Belgium in the UEFA Nations League.
Gareth Southgate awarded Rice his 12th England cap on Sunday night as part of a two-man midfield core with Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, but was unable to see the 21-year-old offer any solidity as goals from Youri Tillemans and Dries Mertens ended the Three Lions hope of reaching next year’s Finals.
England are now guaranteed to finish no higher than third in Group A2 following October’s 1-0 loss to second-placed Denmark at Wembley, with Belgium top of the group on 12 points and Iceland yet to get off the mark after five straight defeats.
Rice was unfortunate to have given away the foul which led to Belgium doubling their advantage at the weekend, when referee Danny Makkelie adjudged the Irons product to have fouled Kevin de Bruyne on the edge of the penalty area.
Manchester United icon Roy Keane was at a complete loss as to how Makkelie deemed Rice to have been at fault, having got enough of the ball before making contact with the Manchester City star for there to have not been a foul.
“Rice gets very unlucky here,” Keane told ITV Sport (15/11, 23:25). “He gets enough of the ball and it all happened very quickly, and it’s not a free-kick, but you still have to deal with it.
“What I cannot understand is the wall. You have to jump. I know people talk about players putting it under the wall. But the way he’s running to the ball, Mertens, he’s clearly going to try and whip it over the wall. And why Mings doesn’t jump is beyond me, I just don’t understand.”
However, the free-kick incident was not the only blemish on Rice’s record, as iNews note, he also offered zero chemistry with Henderson and those tasked with threatening Belgium in attack, even after Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Winks brought a bright spark from the bench.
Sky Sports also mentioned Southgate’s need to find the right partner for Henderson or Rice and further pointed to the Hammers ace being nutmegged by Romelu Lukaku as he fed Tielemans to open the scoring as they awarded Rice a mere six out of 10 match rating.
Rice was calm in possession to misplace just one of 66 passes – that coming as one of five attempted long balls – against Belgium, but his offensive plight was clear with no shots on goal, no attempted dribbles, no key balls and no accurate crosses, per SofaScore.
He further lost three of his five ground duels, his sole aerial duel, turned over possession twice and committed three fouls, but he did register two successful tackles and four interceptions as his defensive prowess came to the fore at times.
Moyes would have hoped to see more from his key midfielder, having called on Rice as one of only three outfield West Ham players to feature for all available minutes in the Premier League this season, as the 21-year-old entered the international break on the back of an uncharacteristically wasteful display at home to Fulham. West Ham will be hoping that the poor game against Fulham, followed by the Belgium performance isn’t the start of a poor run of form for their star midfielder.