Declan Rice shows true colours in heartwarming Slovenia exchange during Euro 2024 draw – Football News

Declan Rice shows true colours in heartwarming Slovenia exchange during Euro 2024 draw

Declan Rice made a touching gesture during England’s draw with Slovenia (Image: Getty)

Declan Rice showed his class when he reached out to Slovenia star Josip Ilicic to compliment his return from a mental health issue. Ilicic spoke earlier this week about previously being afraid to sleep for fear of not waking up.

The Maribor forward’s journey to Euro 2024 has been remarkable. Four years ago, he took a break from football to focus on his mental health. Ilicic took a similar sabbatical 18 months later.

A falling out with then-manager Damir Krznar saw him banished from the Maribor first-team earlier this season. It was only after Krznar’s departure in October that Ilicic’s form improved and he was a surprise call-up to the Slovenia squad for this summer’s tournament.

“I was afraid to go to sleep,” Ilicic told Sky Italia about his mental health struggle. “I thought I would never wake up in the morning and see my family again. It was hard to recover — you start from below zero and you have to get used to moving and running again, as if I were a child.”

Ilicic was introduced late on for Slovenia against England and the 36-year-old has opened up on a heartwarming exchange with Three Lions star Rice. The former Atalanta man revealed that Rice had approached him to praise his journey.

“I am sincerely pleased, even today when I entered the pitch a player complimented me and told me that he respects me a lot, this pleases me,” Ilicic said. “The whole world knows my story. Who is the player? An Arsenal midfielder, you know well. Declan Rice, yes.”

Slovenia held on to a historic goalless draw against England and will qualify for the knockout rounds as one of the best third-placed teams.

Discussing the match, Ilicic continued: “It’s difficult to explain this emotion, it’s a wonderful thing especially for us players and for all the staff, and above all for the fans who came to support us.

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Josip Ilicic

Josip Ilicic recently revealed that he was scared to fall asleep in case he never woke up (Image: Getty)

“It’s not that I’m going to stop, but I was missing a finish line like this to say that I gave my all to achieve this type of match and result.“

England produced another concerning performance against Slovenia. Harry Kane went close to converting a Kieran Trippier cross, while Bukayo Saka had a goal chalked off for offside.

Manager Gareth Southgate was targeted by beer cups at full-time. He said: “I understand the narrative towards me and that’s better for the team if [criticism] is towards me and not them, but it’s creating an unusual environment for us to operate in.”