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UEFA Nations League

Rice relishing 'massive' chance ahead of Nations League showdown with Netherlands

19:12 IST 28/05/2019
Declan Rice, England
The England and West Ham midfielder has had a dream breakthrough campaign that he hopes will end with national team success

Declan Rice urged his team-mates not to pass up the opportunity of winning a first piece of international silverware for England since 1966 when they head to Portugal for the inaugural Nations League Finals.

England topped a group containing Spain and Croatia to advance through to the final four, with the Netherlands awaiting in the semi-finals on June 6.

The Three Lions finished fourth at last year's World Cup and Rice, who only switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland in March, says there is a big chance to build on that success by overcoming the Dutch and then one of Portugal or Switzerland.

"It's massive, not only for me but for the whole squad and the nation," he said at Tuesday's news conference. "It's a chance to win the first Nations League and an opportunity to win a trophy for England for the first time since 1966. 

"It's massive for us as a nation and the players are aware of that - it's up to us to do the business.

"Netherlands are a really exciting team. Everyone saw that in the Champions League with [Matthijs] de Ligt, [Frenkie] de Jong and [Donny] van de Beek for Ajax. But in our squad as well we’ve got fantastic young players who have performed at such a high standard this season.

"We know the game is going to be tough but it is one that we are confident ahead of. We beat Croatia and Spain to get here and put in good performances - we will do that again against the Netherlands."

Rice was handed his international debut by Gareth Southgate against the Czech Republic at Wembley two months ago and made his first start a few days later in the 5-1 win over Montenegro.

And the West Ham midfielder, named as part of Southgate's final 23-man group for the tournament, already feels like a valued member of the squad.

"I felt comfortable here since the moment I walked through the door for my first camp back in March," he said.

"All the lads, most of whom I know from playing against them, made me feel welcome. One thing I can say is that Gareth has really got this squad together."

Representing England at the Nations League Finals will cap what has been an impressive breakthrough campaign for Rice, who became a regular for West Ham after holding down a place in Manuel Pellegrini's starting line-up from September onwards.

"If you look back to the start of the season at Liverpool, I was dragged off at half-time and then missed a few games before returning against Everton," he said.

"It's been a whirlwind season for me and one that I have dreamed of; one I never thought would happen. I've just got to take it all in my stride.

"Consistency is key. I've kept myself in good shape to play in pretty much every game this season and I have a manager who has put trust in me. 

"I'm the youngest player in the squad but my team-mates have given me the confidence to go out and perform at the level I've been performing at."