England have 'put too much pressure on ourselves'

Declan Rice says England have “put too much pressure on ourselves” after Gareth Southgate's side drew with Denmark in their second group game at Euro 2024.

England are top of Group C but were criticised for their performance in Thursday's 1-1 draw, which followed an opening 1-0 win over Serbia.

Southgate's side reached the final at Euro 2020 - the closest the Three Lions have come to ending their 58-year wait for a major trophy.

Arsenal midfielder Rice said the squad are "desperate to do the country proud" but Southgate believes his players may “care too much” as they seek European glory.

“We are all so desperate to win, to be leaders, to go out there and give people memories for lifetimes and sometimes I maybe feel like we put too much pressure on ourselves where we could just go out there and let it just take care of ourselves," Rice said.

“We know we can be better in and out of possession and there is lots to improve on, which is a positive in a way."

With positive recent tournament results accompanied by stellar seasons for key individuals such as forward players Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka, England arrived in Germany as one of the favourites to win the competition.

However, the display against Denmark, in which England were unable to build on captain Kane's 18th-minute opener, was described as "baffling and concerning" by former England defender Rio Ferdinand among the post-match criticism.

“I think there is probably more pressure now from the outside just because of the seasons some of our players have had,” Rice said.

“If you look at the goals that our front four have scored this year, it’s over 100 between them. Of course there is expectation because they are the best players in the world. And that goes for everyone throughout the team.

“There's going to be that pressure. This is England [at] a major tournament. But this is our job and this is what we have to deal with."

Southgate preparing England for 'rollercoaster' ahead

When Southgate took over as manager in November 2016, England had suffered humiliation at Euro 2016 when they lost to Iceland in the last 16.

But at the following European Championship, three years ago, they reached the final at Wembley where they lost to Italy in a penalty shootout.

At that tournament they also began their campaign with a narrow win and an underwhelming draw, but ultimately qualified as group winners.

“We are trying to do something that has never been done before. So that is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster," Southgate said.

“It’s not going to go smoothly when you are trying to achieve extraordinary things. They are bloody difficult.

“We have to accept the level of expectations, we have to accept the arena we are in. And we have to find a better way of playing to how we have so far.”

Southgate, who also led England to a World Cup semi-final in 2018, is the first manager to take England to a major final since Alf Ramsey’s side won the World Cup in 1966.

Responding to the criticism his side have received following their opening two performances, Southgate said he is focused on helping guide the players through the "difficult period" which lays ahead.

“I am seeing every day that they are loving working together,” Southgate said.

“I don’t think it is a lack of spark. At the moment, they ironically care too much and they need firm leadership at this time, in my opinion.

“We have to guide through the difficult period that is coming but really stay on track and focused on this challenge ahead."