Declan Rice outlines bid to join England elite as Euros qualifiers end in North Macedonia

Declan Rice has set his sights on winning 100 caps for England.

The Arsenal midfielder will earn his 48th cap against North Macedonia tonight after establishing himself as a key player for his country.

By doing so, Rice, 24, will go ahead of Trevor Brooking in the list of all-time England appearances and move to within one cap of 1966 World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst.

Since switching his international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland and making his England debut in 2019, Rice has been a virtual ever-present under Gareth Southgate.

The midfielder moves ahead of Trevor Brooking with 48 caps (The FA via Getty Images)
The midfielder moves ahead of Trevor Brooking with 48 caps (The FA via Getty Images)

Only nine players have reached 100 England caps, but Rice hopes to join that elite club. "To get near 50 caps for England is a massive deal to me," he said.

"I want to play as much as possible.[Being there with] World Cup winners, legends of the game, people who will be remembered forever, I am a bit speechless.

"I have to give a bit of credit to myself, because when you get picked for England it is not just you get picked. You have to work for it. You have to earn it. Those England caps are special. They are the pinnacle, and when I get to 50, I am going to aim for 100."

It would be a huge surprise if Rice did not reach a century of caps, with the main question regarding the England team ahead of the Euros being who plays alongside him and Jude Bellingham in midfield.

Rice believes Southgate is right to persist with a deep-lying double pivot in midfield, despite calls for the England manager to remove the shackles ahead of the Euros.

Rice is expected to partner Kalvin Phillips in Skopje on Monday night, with Southgate unlikely to change his risk-averse approach, despite the level of opposition tonight. "I have felt when I am on the pitch — even when I'm not — that the balance throughout the team has been really good," said Rice.

"I understand how Gareth works, wanting two holding midfield players. I know the public wants to see so much attacking flair, but as a manager I'd be the same in terms of wanting that security and that protection, whether it is me or someone else who can get forward as well. The balance has been really good over the last few years.

"The level of the team is ridiculously high. People can say whatever they want, but against Italy, in both games, we dominated them."

Only 21 players have travelled to Skopje for the final Euro 2024 qualifier, after Kieran Trippier pulled out for personal reasons and Jarrod Bowen returned to West Ham due to an injury.