Declan Rice was involved in a comical counter-attraction to the hysteria sweeping around Wembley when Harry Kane scored England’s second goal against Germany on Tuesday evening.
As Kane wheeled away towards the stand in celebration and his delirious teammates followed, Rice – 50 yards away on the other side of the pitch – attempted to do likewise.
The problem was the West Ham midfielder had just gone down with cramp so, after initially dragging one leg behind him in a lame man’s sprint, he suddenly went down as if he had been picked off by a sniper.
As the hugging became a pile-on, Rice was lying on the Wembley turf with his leg bolt upright, drowning in lactic acid.
Rice’s race was run and Jordan Henderson replaced him but as an image of a player having emptied the tank for the cause it was striking.
MUST READ: England have 1966 World Cup omen in their favour after Germany win
The mileage covered by Rice and Kalvin Phillips in the England midfield against Germany and over the course of these Euros has been considerable. Just shy of 50 miles all in – and that is with Rice having been mothballed for a half against the Czech Republic.
The other notable shared statistic between a midfield hinge that has become integral to the England cause at this tournament is that as they approach a major tournament quarter-final on Saturday they do so with just 33 caps between them.
In the last round, against a German midfield which included an international centurion in Toni Kroos the contest was a mis-match in terms of experience but it did not turn out like that.
“The two midfield players are very inexperienced internationally and do not have any European experience club-wise either and they were up against a World Cup winner and a Champions League winner (Kai Havertz) in there,” said England manager Gareth Southgate.
“It was a huge challenge and they did brilliantly.
Had Jordan Henderson been fit for the start of the Euros the partnership might have never had chance to flower at this tournament.
But once their joint influence had been felt in the shut-out of Croatia in their opening match the shirts were theirs to lose. Phillips and Rice have started every game since.
The armchair selectors may have preferred a more adventurous combination but it is impossible to argue with the results.
Being caught in their web can drive opponents to distraction. For Kroos, harried all game by Phillips at Wembley, it might well have proved the last straw. German newspaper Bild reported he is set to call time on his international career.
For Rice, 22, and Phillips, 25, their futures stretch out in front of them.