England's Rice 'relishing' opportunity to test himself against German duo Kroos and Muller

By Sports Desk June 25, 2021

England midfielder Declan Rice is "relishing" the opportunity to face Germany duo Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller in a mouth-watering Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Tuesday. 

Gareth Southgate's side came top of their group, taking seven points from games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic without conceding a goal, ensuring they will begin the knockout rounds at Wembley Stadium.

There, they will face Germany for the third time at a European Championship and the first in a knockout match since the Three Lions lost on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 96.

West Ham midfielder Rice has started all three of England’s games so far and is likely to be in from the start against two players who he has expressed admiration for in the past. 

After Bayern Munich's 2020 Champions League final triumph over Paris Saint-Germain last year, Rice tweeted: "Muller has to be up there as one of the most underrated players of all time! Serious footballer."

He followed this up in April with a tweet about Kroos after Real Madrid's 3-1 Champions League victory over Liverpool, saying: "Watching Toni Kroos is very special." Los Blancos midfielder Kroos replied: "Thanks mate."

Kroos has been exemplary for the 2014 world champions so far in this tournament. No player has completed more passes at the finals than the 31-year-old (280), with 217 of those occurring in the opposition half – by far the best return at the tournament.

Speaking at a media conference on Friday, Rice described Kroos as "world class" and said he cannot wait to go toe-to-toe with him.

 

"I can't remember what my tweet actually was but I woke up to him saying 'thanks mate'," he told a media conference. "It was a good moment to be fair and the lads at West Ham were giving me a bit [of stick] for it.

"If you go back to the tweets, I have always said I am a fan.

"When there are big games on and you are watching, you appreciate top footballers. Obviously that night I felt the need to say [what I did] about Muller and Kroos.

"I am relishing to go out there and put myself up against the best. It is England v Germany, round of 16, at Wembley, it is going to be proper, so I need to go out there and give a solid performance myself and as a team.

"Kroos is world class, other midfielders like me want to test ourselves. But we need to impose ourselves on the game and be physical and stop him spraying it around the pitch."

Tuesday's game will be the third meeting between England and Germany at the European Championship. Germany won 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the 1996 semi-final, before England won 1-0 in the group stages at Euro 2000.

England will be hoping to improve on a poor record in the knockout games in this competition, having never won one in 90 minutes (D4 L2). Four games have gone to penalties, with England only progressing once via this method, against Spain at Wembley in 1996.

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