'People write us off' - England's Declan Rice issues fierce defence on behalf of Leeds United star Kalvin Phillips
Declan Rice has fired back at critics who say he and Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips aren't good enough to play for England after the pair put in solid displays in a Euro 2020 last 16 win over Germany.
West Ham United man Rice once again took the holding midfield role for Gareth Southgate's side, while Phillips played further forward in the position he has occupied in all four games at his first major tournament.
The 2-0 win over the Germans made it four consecutive clean sheets for the Three Lions ahead of the quarter-final tie against Ukraine on Saturday night.
The role the defensive midfielders have played in England s progress has proved that naysayers, who suggest the pair aren't up to scratch for the top level of international football, were wrong.
England have been difficult for teams to break down and despite a couple of nervy moments in the last 16 clash, managed to shut down the German attack for the most part. Phillips recovered the ball 11 times over the course of 90 minutes and while he was involved in the opposition half during the first 45 minutes, it was Rice striving to burst forward and support the attack in the second half.
One of the major talking points surrounding the national team has been which defensive midfielder Southgate should select from the pair, along with Jordan Henderson, but the tournament has allowed Rice and Phillips to cement their partnership.
The way they have screened the back line impressed former England defender RIo Ferdinand, who praised them for keeping the more experienced Liverpool captain Henderson on the bench.
"With me and Kalv, people are always going to write us off," Rice told the BBC after the Wembley win.
"I read stuff where people write us off and say we aren't good enough to be playing at this level. Well you've seen today, we are."
Rice is happy to admit the pair didn't match their highest performance standards in the 0-0 group stage draw with Scotland but he insists their response is evidence of their suitability for the national team.
"Maybe yeah against Scotland we weren't at our best but we parked those performances to the side and I think that's part of being a top player," he said.
"You have to move on, you have to be mentally strong and you have to go out there and keep putting in performance after performance."
His message to his midfield partner in the dressing room after the victory over Germany was simply that they now have to move on once again, in order to produce what is required on Saturday in Rome.
"I just said to Kalv after the game then, we need to keep going," he said.
"There's another final on Saturday which we're about to play in and we need to stay fully focused and ready for what's next to come."