Belfast Telegraph

England and Holland are laying foundations for future, insists Rice


Going places: Declan Rice is excited by England’s youth
Going places: Declan Rice is excited by England’s youth

By Ronnie Esplin

Declan Rice can see similarities between England's burgeoning squad and that of their Nations League Finals opponents Holland.

England face Ronald Koeman's side in a semi-final clash in Guimaraes a week tomorrow and the 20-year-old West Ham midfielder is anticipating an exciting game, with Holland expected to feature youngsters such as Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong alongside the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Having switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, Rice made his England debut in a Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic in March before earning his first start against Montenegro three days later.

Asked whether there were similarities between the teams, he said: "For sure. I think it's pretty much the same to be honest - a mixture of old heads and some really young players coming through. They are really, really exciting, we've seen that with Ajax in the Champions League.

"They've got some great players, but in our squad as well we've got fantastic young players who have performed at such a high standard this season. We know it's going to be tough, but we're confident."

Rice played 33 of West Ham's final 34 games of the season and is happy with his form going into the Nations League Finals.

"Consistency is key," he added. "I've kept myself in good shape to play in pretty much every game this season.

"I've been lucky enough to have a manager who has put their trust in me, along with my team-mates as well.

"Being the youngest player in the squad and playing week in, week out, they give me the confidence to go out there and perform at the level I've been performing at."

• Marcelo Bielsa will stay on as Leeds United head coach next season.

After discussions, the Argentine and the Championship club have decided to exercise the second-year option in the contract he signed in June 2018.

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