Declan Rice was all smiles after scoring his first competitive goal for England in Thursday’s 4-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying win in Hungary.
The West Ham United midfielder was at his best as the Three Lions maintained their 100 per cent start in Group I, netting four second-half goals in Budapest to overcome tricky opponents and silence a vociferous home crowd.
Returning to action for the first time since losing on penalties to Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 final at Wembley in July, England produced a convincing display, with Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Harry Maguire finding the target before Rice’s late strike.
Speaking to FATV at the Puskás Aréna after becoming the first Hammer to net in a qualifier since Trevor Brooking scored against the same nation in 1981, Rice was proud of his own performance, that of Gareth Southgate’s team, and to have scored his second goal for his country.
“It was massive,” he confirmed. “You know, we knew before we came that we were going to a place which is a hostile place to come, and we needed to go out there and put on a real performance.
“I thought the mentality was top drawer. Obviously, after the disappointment of the summer, I thought this was a real statement of intent that we’re back and we’re ready to push on again.”
The 22-year-old’s goal arrived when he hit Jack Grealish’s cut-back from outside the penalty area and saw the ball squirm through goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi. While it may have been fortunate, nobody was taking Rice’s landmark goal away from him.
“Look, I’m happy to score,” he said, with a smile. “The ‘keeper obviously made a mistake, but to score and put one in the back of the net is always good.
“Everyone’s saying it was an own-goal, but I’m taking it. I don’t score a lot and it was my 25th cap, so to score on that was a really proud moment for me.”
Rice and England will hope to continue their perfect start to qualifying for next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar when they host Andorra at Wembley on Sunday at 7.45pm. The tie will be screened live in the UK by ITV.