Declan Rice can see similarities between England’s burgeoning squad and that of their Nations League Finals opponents Holland.
England face Ronald Koeman’s side in a semi-final clash in Guimaraes a week on Thursday and the 20-year-old West Ham midfielder is anticipating an exciting game, with Holland expected to feature youngsters such as Matthijs De Ligt and Frenkie De Jong alongside the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Having switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, Rice made his England debut in a Euro 2020 qualifier with Czech Republic in March before earning his first start against Montenegro three days later.
Asked whether there were similarities between the teams, he said: “For sure. I think it’s pretty much the same to be honest – a mixture of old heads and some really young players coming through. They are really, really exciting, we’ve seen that with Ajax in the Champions League.
“They’ve got some great players, but in our squad as well we’ve got fantastic young players who have performed at such a high standard this season. We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re confident for sure.”
Rice played 33 of West Ham’s final 34 games of the season and is happy with his form going into the Nations League Finals.
“Consistency is key,” he added. “I’ve kept myself in good shape to play in pretty much every game this season.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have a manager who has put their trust in me, along with my team-mates as well.
“Being the youngest player in the squad and playing week in, week out, they give me the confidence to go out there and perform at the level I’ve been performing at.”
Rice, who was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, says his “whirlwind” 2018-19 is the kind of season he has “dreamed of.”
He said: “I think if I look back to the start of the season, I started at Liverpool (a 4-0 defeat on August 12), got dragged at half-time, and then missed out on three or four of the next games and then I came back in for the Everton one (a 3-1 away win on September 16) and I just kicked on.
“It’s been pretty much a whirlwind season for me. It’s one that I’ve dreamed of, for sure, and one that I never thought would probably happen. But it has and I just have to take it in my stride.”
Regarding the time he has had with England so far, Rice said: “I felt comfortable from the moment I walked through the door to my first camp back in March. All the lads made me feel welcome.
“Gareth (Southgate) has really got this squad together and all the lads really, really get on. No one is left out, they all make you feel really comfortable and I’m really grateful for that.”
When asked how important the Nations League was, Rice said: “It’s massive not only for me but the whole squad and the nation.
“It’s (an opportunity) to win the first Nations League and to win a trophy for England, the first time since 1966. So that’s massive for us as a nation.
“The players are fully aware of that and we’re looking to go out there and do the business.”