Slovakia boss reacts to Declan Rice bust-up and slams England tactic in dramatic last-16 clash

Joe Williams
England midfielder Declan Rice
Declan Rice gets into an altercation with Slovakia manager Francesco Calzona.

Slovakia manager Francesco Calzona has revealed that England midfielder Declan Rice “apologised” for shoving him after the final whistle in their Euro 2024 last-16 clash..

Gareth Southgate’s 99th match in charge looked set to be his last as the Gelsenkirchen clash entered stoppage time with England trailing, only for Jude Bellingham, who turned 21 on Saturday, to score a jaw-dropping overhead kick.

That cancelled out Ivan Schranz’s first-half strike to take the last-16 tie into extra time, which was not even a minute old when captain Harry Kane nodded home from substitute Ivan Toney’s smart header.

Southgate’s men would hold on to that lead to seal a 2-1 win and a quarter-final clash against Switzerland, keeping their hopes alive of joining the England women’s team as European champions and becoming just the second England men’s team to win silverware.

After the final whistle, Rice was involved in a spat with Slovakia manager Calzona in which they both shoved each other.

Reacting to the incident, Calzona said: “Rice was supposed to go to the referees and say goodbye and then leave.

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“I had to speak to the referees and he was carrying on, continuing to speak. Then he apologised and it all ended there.”

But Calzona criticised the referee for not stamping down on England “wasting a whole lot of time” in extra time as the Three Lions scraped through.

“We probably should have been more aggressive in terms of man-marking but this is how things went, I accept that,” Calzona said.

“What I don’t accept is one minute of stoppage time with their goalkeeper [Jordan Pickford] wasting a whole lot of time.

“I didn’t like the refereeing, I absolutely did not like that. I didn’t like the way the three officials behaved, they were always coming to our bench, they ignored the other bench, I really did not appreciate this but this is not why we lost.

“I’m proud of my team. If we had been not so attentive all the time that’s something I will review when I watch the match tomorrow but I must congratulate all my players.

“The only thing I didn’t appreciate is that the way England were obstructing, were wasting time, was not punished.”

When asked what his thoughts were in the moments before Bellingham struck, England boss Southgate said after the final whistle: “Well, I knew Ivan Toney had the hump with me for putting him on, that was the first thing!

“But I said to him ‘this could be the moment’ (after bringing him on in the fourth minute of stoppage time).

“We showed the players a presentation about 1966 and how Geoff Hurst hadn’t played until the quarter-finals, and the difficult route that the team had had.

“All along the players that have come into the games have had a big impact, they’ve been ready, they’ve trained well, and all of the guys that came on played important roles either in creating the goals, steadying the ship.

“We want to be better. I’m not going to hide from that, but the spirit and the character was there for everybody to see, and we’re still in there fighting.”