Declan Rice believes England deserve more credit as ultimate French test looms

Declan Rice of England celebrates after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and England at Al Janoub Stadium on November 29, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. 

Declan Rice believes England’s World Cup performances have not been given the credit they deserve and believes they have “silenced the critics” ahead of a quarter-final against holders France.

A comfortable 3-0 victory over Senegal in the last-16 has set Gareth Southgate’s side up for a clash against the reigning champions at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday.

Having boasted the best record in the group stages – including a 6-2 victory over Iran and a 3-0 win against Wales – England have caught the eye in Qatar. But Rice feels other nations have earned more plaudits than the Euro 2020 runners-up and insists England have earned the right to be feared.

“I don’t think we get the credit we deserve in our performances,” said the West Ham skipper. “I think if you look at other teams, like Holland and Argentina, they win their games comfortably and they get called masterclasses. With us, it always gets picked off. The negative things always come that way. If you look at the last couple of games, it’s been faultless.

“I think countries, like I said the other day, should be starting to fear us now because we’re a great team. We’re silencing the critics. Going into the tournament, there was a lot of talk that we don’t score enough goals.

“That’s another one we’ve kept people quiet on. There was a lot of scrutiny around the defence and conceding goals, but it’s been solid. We’re going to keep building and pushing.”

While France boast Kylian Mbappe – the Paris Saint-Germain forward who leads the race for the golden boot with five goals – Rice insists reckons have highlighted some areas where they can get an advantage of Didier Deschamps’ men.

“There’s no point buzzing about tonight if we can’t push on and beat France,” he added. “Against the big teams, there has always been a lot of talk on us using the ball. I think in this tournament we’ve pretty much controlled every game.

“We’ve had a fair share of possession, we’ve moved it really well. The opening stages have been really shaky because teams are really trying to stop us playing. But once we get that goal, they have to change. It opens up and then you really start to see us play.

“Against France, we’ve seen some weaknesses in them that we can try to exploit. It’s set up for a great game.”

“These are the games we want to play in. They only come round once: England vs France, quarter-final, it doesn’t get bigger than that.

“It’s the biggest test that we can face,” England boss Southgate said. “They’re world champions, incredible depth of talent, outstanding individual players, very difficult to play against and to score goals against. It’s a fantastic challenge, brilliant game for us to prepare for.

“The two quarter-finals that are already in place are fantastic, historic football rivalries and great games from the past.

“A brilliant game for us to be involved with and test ourselves against the very best.”

France eased past Poland earlier in the day to seal their spot, with Olivier Giroud becoming their all-time top scorer before Kylian Mbappe hit a brilliant brace in the 3-1 triumph.

“Of course (Mbappe) is a world-class player and has already delivered big moments in this tournament and in previous tournaments,” Southgate said.

“But there’s also, I think (Antoine) Griezmann is now over 70 consecutive games for France and I think he’s also a phenomenal player.

“We know Olivier Giroud so well and they have outstanding young midfield players as well. So, everywhere you look when we’re studying France at every age group, they have incredible depth of talent in every position.

“It’s a huge test but one that we’re really looking forward to and it’s a great challenge for our team now.”

It remains to be seen whether Raheem Sterling will be involved against France, having been allowed to leave the camp ahead of the Senegal match.

It is understood armed intruders broke into the 27-year-old’s house while his family were there on Saturday evening, leaving him understandably shaken and concerned about the well-being of his children.

Sterling has headed back to the UK but could return if the circumstances are right, with Southgate saying “we’ve got to wait and see” if he features again in Qatar.

“He’s on his way home and, yeah, we’re obviously mindful of him being allowed space and (having) privacy respected, so we don’t want to talk in too much detail.

“Of course it’s not ideal for the group ahead of a big game but it pales into insignificance – the individual is more important than the group in those moments. So, I needed to look after the situation and then I had to pass it on to others to deal with this afternoon in order to get him home.”

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