Declan Rice believes his strong season with West Ham United gave him confidence that he could perform at the same level as he did in Sunday’s 1-0 Group D triumph over Croatia.
The 22-year-old was instrumental in England’s dominance in the midfield, which stifled the likes of Luka Modri, Ivan Perii, and Marcelo Brozovi and laid the groundwork for a hard-fought but well-deserved victory at Wembley Stadium.
After the game, the West Ham midfielder told reporters that Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovi’s assertion that his country’s midfield was better to England’s had given him even more drive to perform on Sunday.
After the season I’ve had with West Ham and the performances I’ve had with England recently I had full confidence before the game that I could go out there and perform to a high standardDeclan Rice
“I did see the comments before the game and of course you don’t want to talk too much,” he began. “You want to just go out on the field and show what you can do. I thought our gameplan was excellent. We – me, Mase and Kalv – have been working on our distances and Mase and Kalv pressing and me sitting just behind them and allowing them to express themselves and having the freedom to do what they want and I think it worked really well on Sunday.
“There were always going to be spells when Croatia had the ball and we had to sit in but I thought Mase and Kalv were outstanding and we worked really well in there and it was a key battle in the game.”
Rice’s performance on Sunday gave him even more faith and confidence as a youngster who has made huge progress in his own game over the last 2 or 3 seasons.
“We knew we had to be at the top level and if I’d have had asked myself two years ago to go out there and perform at a high standard, of course I’d have gone out there and done it but maybe I’d have had some doubts,” he revealed.
“But on Sunday, in my mind, after the season I’ve had with West Ham and the performances I’ve had with England recently I had full confidence before the game that I could go out there and perform to a high standard and I think everyone did that.”
‘Liverpool won’t stop me’ -Xherdan Shaqiri is ready for a new challenge
Xherdan Shaqiri is expected to attract increased interest from a number of clubs this week, according to Liverpool.
Following his great achievements at this summer’s European Championships, several Italian and Spanish clubs have expressed interest in pulling him away from Anfield.
After making just six starts for the Reds last season, Shaqiri has notified Liverpool authorities of his desire for a new challenge.
Sevilla, Villarreal, Napoli, and Lazio are all said to have approached the forward’s agents to inquire about a move away from Anfield, where he has been for the past three years.
“I told Liverpool, board, I feel ready for a new challenge,” Shaqiri told Italian publication Corriere Dello Sport.
“They accepted my decision and will now consider bids to sell me. Liverpool won’t stop me this summer.
“The important thing at this moment in my career is to be able to play regularly, but that hasn’t always been the case in the last three seasons.
“I’m only 29 years old, I have played in some of the best Leagues in Europe and I would like to continue being a part of them.
“I’m not yet thinking about the end of my career, it’s a future I imagine far away. We will see what destiny has in store for me.
“I have no direct contact; my consultant team deals with the market. They inform me when there are clubs interested, you have to ask them for the names.”
Shaqiri’s deal ends in 2022, but Liverpool has the option to extend it for another year, so they aren’t in any hurry to transfer him for a bargain this summer.
Regarding a possible transfer to Lazio, Shaqiri added: “Igli Tare (sporting director) has been doing an excellent job at Lazio for years.
“If it’s true that he has great respect for me, then I’m honoured.
“I have been following Lazio for a long time, they are a top team. In general, due to my characteristics, I like to play more attacking football and Maurizio Sarri practices it. It would be intriguing.”
Southgate tells England stars to bounce back
Gareth Southgate urged England to use the pain of their Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy to fuel success in the future as the Three Lions boss accepted the blame for their heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat.
England failed to win their first major title since the 1966 World Cup as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed penalties at Wembley on Sunday.
Southgate’s side had made a dream start thanks to Luke Shaw’s second-minute goal, but Italy showed their class to hit back through Leonardo Bonucci’s second-half equaliser.
When it came to penalties, Southgate gambled by sending on late substitutes Rashford and Sancho specifically for their prowess from the spot.
The move backfired as England suffered the latest in a long line of bitter shootout defeats at major tournaments.
“That is my responsibility. I chose the guys to take the kicks. I told the players that nobody is on their own in that situation,” Southgate said.
“It is my decision to give Saka that penalty. That is totally my responsibility. It is not him or Marcus or Jadon.
“Marcus and Jadon have been by far the best in the lead-in. It was a gamble (to bring them on), but if we gamble earlier we maybe lose the game in extra time.”
England had actually won their last two penalty shootouts against Colombia at the 2018 World Cup and against Switzerland in the 2019 Nations League.
But even those successes weren’t enough to keep Southgate’s players from losing their nerve when the stakes were highest.
With over 60 000 fans roaring them on and millions more watching at home, sporting immortality beckoned for England if they had won the shootout.
Jordan Pickford did his part with two saves and Southgate insisted he had no regrets about his picks for the penalty takers.
“We’ve tracked them, what they’ve done with their clubs over a long period of time and what they’ve shown in training as well,” Southgate said.
“That’s the process that worked for us in Russia and in the Nations League. Tonight it didn’t quite work.”
Southgate admitted his side’s lack of composure on the ball proved fatal as they allowed Italy to regain their composure following Shaw’s opener.
“We did start well. They were bound to have a spell where they came into the game,” Southgate said.
“We didn’t keep the ball well enough in that initial period in the second half. It was our lack of composure in possession that turned the game. The way they used the ball was better than us.”
After an uplifting run to their first European Championship final featuring memorable knockout stage wins over Germany, Ukraine and Denmark, Southgate and his players have to pick up the pieces after seeing their dreams shattered.
They have the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to aim for and Southgate believes they will be better for the experience of their Euro run.
“At the moment the players are understandably really quiet. Prince William has just been down to see them in the dressing room and has rightly thanked them for what they’ve done and being fulsome in his praise,” Southgate said.
“I said we could have no recriminations. We win and lose together. They’ve got to walk away from here with their heads held high.
“They’ve done more than any other team in the last 50 or so years. In terms of the players, they should be incredibly proud of what they’ve done.”
Mulling over the missed opportunity to lead England to a long-awaited major title, Southgate said he hoped the thrilling journey at least partially made up for the bitter ending.
“Tonight the balloon is burst isn’t it? The feeling will be very empty I know,” he said.
“That’s hard for everyone to take. We wanted to give everyone one more night to continue the biggest party ever.
“We haven’t been able to do that but I hope we’ve given everybody some incredible memories.”
Liverpool leading the chase for Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is said to be leading the fight to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez this summer.
The Spanish press has begun to speculate the news, with Saul being linked with a summer move to Liverpool to join Jurgen Klopp’s team.
The Reds have spotted an opportunity due to Atletico’s deteriorating financial situation, according to Diario AS in Spain.
The Madrid-based club was boosted by a spectacular LaLiga title, but they have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and must claw back funds as a result.
As a result, rumors say that Atletico would consider offers for the 26-year-old in the area of €40 million (£35 million) this summer.
Last season, Saul was pushed down the pecking order by Diego Simeone, and Atletico have already made a midfield addition this summer with the acquisition of the intriguing Rodrigo de Paul.
Saul is now trailing Koke, Thomas Lemar, and Marcos Llorente, with Hector Herrera and Geoffrey Kondogbia all playing for Atletico.
According to reports, German heavyweights Bayern Munich have approached Saul, but he has stated that he will only leave the Spanish side for the Premier League.
The 26-year-old is under a long-term contract with Atletico until the summer of 2026, with a €150 million release clause.
Atletico, on the other hand, is said to be eager to sell and utilize the money to develop their squad in preparation for a title defense next season.
After allowing Georginio Wijnaldum to join Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent this summer, Liverpool are keeping a close eye on the midfield transfer market.
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