Declan Rice’s kind act during Euro 2024 speaks volumes about Arsenal star

Declan Rice of England reacts during the UEFA EURO 2024 group stage match between England and Slovenia at Cologne Stadium on June 25, 2024 in Cologne, Germany
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Declan Rice demonstrated his class with his comments to Slovenia's Josip Ilicic, who has faced mental health challenges throughout his career.

Despite being central to England's underwhelming 0-0 stalemate with Slovenia at Euro 2024, the 25-year-old Arsenal midfielder found time after the match to speak to the Maribor midfielder. Ilicic, 36, has stepped away from football twice to prioritise his mental well-being.

Ilicic's impressive performances domestically earned him a spot in Slovenia's squad for the tournament in Germany. He was brought on for his first appearance of the competition against the Three Lions.

It was a miserable afternoon for Gareth Southgate's side and for Rice, who has struggled in the England midfield in all three group stage matches. Despite the fact that Rice would've been in a low mode after the game, he still made a point of reaching out to Ilicic

After the match, Ilicic revealed the exchange during an interview. The ex-Atalanta midfielder said: "I am sincerely pleased. Even today when I entered the pitch a player complimented me and told me that he respects me a lot, this pleases me.

"The whole world knows my story. Who is the player? An Arsenal midfielder, you know well. Declan Rice, yes."

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Further reflecting on his emotions, Ilicic said: "It's difficult to explain this emotion, it's a wonderful thing especially for us players and for all the staff, and above all for the fans who came to support us.

"It's not that I'm going to stop, but I was missing a finish line like this to say that I gave my all to achieve this type of match and result."

Ilicic opened up about his mental health struggles in a previous interview with Sky Italia: He said: "I was afraid to go to sleep. I thought I would never wake up in the morning and see my family again. It was hard to recover - you start from below zero and you have to get used to moving and running again, as if I were a child."

Slovenia's draw with England secured their spot in the Round of 16, setting up a match against Portugal, who recently lost 2-0 to Georgia, reports the Mirror.

The draw with Slovenia did not stop Southgate's side from finishing at the top of Group H. They face Slovakia on Sunday, June 30, for a place in the quarter-finals.

The Three Lions' performance has been underwhelming, with just one win and two draws and two goals scored. Slovakia, on the flip side, kicked off their campaign with a stunning win over Belgium but endured a dip in form, losing to Ukraine before drawing their final match against Romania.