Nations League: Rice ready to play 'dirty' to disrupt Netherlands star De Jong

Declan Rice said England's Nations League clash with Netherlands will be the biggest game he has played in if he is involved.

Declan Rice is hoping to make his third appearance for England against Netherlands.   -  Getty Images

Declan Rice is ready to play "dirty" against "fantastic player" Frenkie de Jong to help England overcome Netherlands in the Nations League Finals semifinals.

The West Ham midfielder pinpointed De Jong as a major threat to England's chances at Estadio Dom Afonso in Guimaraes.

De Jong, who will join Barcelona for next season after agreeing a move worth a potential €86 million in January, was a key member of the Ajax side that reached the Champions League semifinals and his accomplished performances showed why the Blaugrana rate him so highly.

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Rice is hoping to make his third appearance for the Three Lions and is ready for a physical battle with the 22-year-old.

"He is a fantastic player," Rice told reporters. "I am relishing the chance to put myself up against him. You cannot give him too much respect on the pitch because that is when he starts to dictate the game.

"You have got to be dirty, up in his face and try and disrupt him from playing his game. I am sure as a team we will do well to stop the Dutch. This will be, if I am involved, the biggest game of my life. We are in the semifinals against a great side."

Rice earned three senior caps in friendlies for the Republic of Ireland before writing to FIFA in February to request a transfer of his registration to England in a decision he admitted at the time was "extremely difficult".

Four months on, he said the media fallout from the switch of allegiances did not adversely affect his season at West Ham or his preparations for international duty with England.

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"Most people would have thought that was tough to take on, with loads of papers in Ireland writing about me and Irish players speaking about me," said Rice.

"But it is always going to blow over and I am so laid back, I do not really take much notice of it. I am just focused on what I have got to do for club and country. I have had to be mentally strong and I have been like that since I was a kid."

Sterling bullish of England's Nations League success

Raheem Sterling believes victory in the Nations League Finals will give England the confidence to challenge for Euro 2020 and the World Cup.

England has failed to win an international tournament since it lifted the World Cup on home soil 53 years ago, but Sterling senses that a Nations League Finals triumph will give the Three Lions vital experience when it enters the latter stages of future tournaments.

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"Winning the Nations League Finals would give the team a lot of confidence," he told UEFA.com.

"If you can win this, then when you do play later in the European Championships and the World Cup, it does give you positivity because you've been there already with your national team.

"Once the first trophy comes, it'll feel a bit easier and not as pressured to do it again. The games against the best teams and the best players are the games that mean a lot more to us because then we know where we're at.

"To keep developing we are going to have to play these teams more often because when you get to finals and semifinals, those are the teams you are going to be playing.

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"So, the more we get used to winning games like that, the more confident we'll be as a group when we do come to those situations in bigger tournaments.

"It won't be easy but at the same time we've beaten Netherlands already [in March 2018] and played some good football at times, and it's possible again. I think it's a massive stepping stone for us."

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