England insist ‘keep calm, don’t panic’ as Declan Rice admits players are struggling with pressure

England take part in a yoga session to de-stress
England take part in a yoga session to de-stress - Getty Images/Eddie Keogh

England’s senior players urged their team-mates to stay calm in the aftermath of the dismal Euro 2024 draw with Denmark.

Gareth Southgate’s team faced fierce criticism for their performance in Frankfurt, which prompted questions over their ability to meet expectations.

But members of Southgate’s leadership group are understood to have stressed the need not to panic.

Captain Harry Kane, vice-captain Kyle Walker, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham form England’s leadership group for the Euros.

Sources insisted the mood among players after the draw remained “good” and there is still a confidence that performances and results will improve.

Southgate named 12 players with no major tournament experience in his 26-man squad and one of the biggest concerns for the England manager is over their ability to cope with the pressure.

England face Slovenia in Cologne next Tuesday and senior players have reminded their team-mates that they remain in charge of Group C and on course to progress to the knockout stage as winners.

Rice publicly admitted the England players are struggling to cope with pressure they are putting on themselves by living up to the hopes of an entire nation.

With Southgate saying his squad “care too much” that has led to a loss of calmness and composure, Rice has urged his England team-mates to use their big-game experience to cope better with the pressure of a European Championship campaign.

Rice has defended Southgate’s pressing system which came under fire from pundits, and insisted struggling with the weight of expectation at the finals comes from the squad being so determined to win in Germany.

“We are all so desperate to do the country proud,” he said. “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.

Declan Rice unhappy
England and Declan Rice had a match to forget as they put in a poor performance in the 1-1 draw with Denmark - Getty Images/Alex Grimm

“There is probably more pressure now from the outside just because of the seasons some of our players have had. 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, a major tournament. But look this is our job and this is what we have to deal with. At the end of the day it’s us, we’ve played in high-pressure games, high-pressure environments.”

Regarding England’s pressing, which has been highlighted as a problem during their matches against Serbia and Denmark, Rice added: “I think it’s just connections all over the pitch. You need to have your connections. We work on our pressing all the time.

“When you’re a back four, us 4-2-3-1, playing against a 5-2-3, the way you press is obviously going to be difficult because they always have an extra player at the back and we are outnumbered at that end whereas we have our extra man at our end so it’s just about getting that balance.”

Southgate has admitted his team has “limitations” in how they can press because of the fitness of players, although Rice says it is one of the most important aspects of the game and failing to get it right will lead to problems against the highest-ranked countries.

“The further it goes on, we’re going to play against better opposition, more world-class players, if you don’t get your press right, which probably is the most important thing on the pitch, you’re going to get picked off,” he said. “I feel like in football, even at [a] club, you build everything out of your out-of-possession stuff, then your in-possession stuff, it talks for itself.”