DOHA, Dec 1 (Reuters) – England have built momentum at the World Cup and are happy to give a little help to their countrymen suffering from the winter cold, rising costs and industrial strikes, midfielder Declan Rice said on Thursday.
“I enjoy watching the videos where they celebrate us scoring. We’ll try to push on, keep pushing, keep trying to lift everybody up,” Rice said at England’s training camp in Qatar two days before their last-16 clash with Senegal.
“We’ve really brought the country together… Obviously it’s very close to Christmas now so hopefully we can give them the best Christmas present.”
Gareth Southgate’s side gave the nation a huge boost last summer, in the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic, in their run to the European Championship final.
They are now one of the favorites in Qatar, along with Brazil, Argentina and France, and will be keen to lift the World Cup for the first time since 1966.
“We’re building really well. We’re in a really good position,” Rice said, referring to England’s relatively comfortable progress to the knockout stages thanks to wins over Wales and Iran and a draw with the United States.
England have one of the biggest talents and are favorites to beat Senegal on Sunday, especially as the Africans are without injured striker Sadio Mane.
“Obviously we are facing a bigger test, we know Senegal will be really difficult. They’re a really strong athletic team, some really good individual players,” Rice said.
“When the quality starts to pick up, I think you’ll see our game start to continue to arrive as well,” he added, describing the England camp as calm and confident.
“Why shouldn’t they fear us? We have world-class talent everywhere. We’re one of the biggest teams here. It’s up to us to prove that on the pitch.”
Rice singled out teammates Jude Bellingham and Marcus Rashford for special praise.
“I love playing with him,” he said of the 19-year-old Bellingham, who was alongside him in midfield and opened the scoring for England in their first game against Iran.
“He is young, he is energetic, he moves very well on the pitch. Every game I’ve told him, this is your stage, go out and play and I’ll be there for you.”
Striker Rashford is the top scorer at the World Cup with three so far, and Rice backed him to win the Golden Boot.
“He will continue to get chances. It would be amazing for him to win the Golden Boot, I’d love for him to achieve that,” he said, celebrating Rashford’s return to form after a difficult 2021-22 season with Manchester United.
While past camps in England were known for tension and cliques, this time it was fun and games, Rice said.
“Huge credit has to go to the manager, the way he changed the environment. It’s really special. We’re just together all the time, you never see a player alone. There are always twos, threes, or tens of us!”
Reporting by Hugh Lawson
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