The Harry Kane conundrum: can England’s captain start firing again?
Gareth Southgate keeps faith with his talisman for final Euro 2020 group game
England manager Gareth Southgate and a number of his players have rallied behind captain Harry Kane after the striker’s below-par performances in the opening two matches at Euro 2020.
The Tottenham star is yet to open his goal tally at the tournament and has been substituted in the games against Croatia and Scotland.
Much of the pre-Euro talk regarding Kane had been about his Spurs future, after he revealed his desire to leave the north London club. His fitness has also been questioned as a reason for his sluggish displays.
Following the goalless draw with the Scots at Wembley on Friday, Kane played down any concerns over his fitness, The Guardian reports. The 27-year-old said: “I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t feel physically I wasn’t up to it. I felt going into those games as good as I’ve felt all season, if I’m honest.”
When asked if his Spurs future was affecting his performances, he added: “Absolutely not. All my focus is on how I can help this team and how we can be successful in this tournament. I understand from a media point of view there is speculation but I am fully focused on the job here.”
In the group D table England are second behind the Czech Republic - who they play on Tuesday night. But following results in groups B and C, both teams have now qualified for the round of 16.
Despite their knockout spot being assured, pressure will still be on Southgate’s players - and Kane in particular - to deliver at Wembley.
A major vote of confidence
Kane won the golden boot at the Fifa World Cup in 2018 and also ended the Premier League season as top scorer with 23 goals. However, he has failed to have a single shot on target so far at the Euros, Sky Sports reports.
Despite the striker’s form, Southgate has confirmed that Kane will start England’s final group game against the Czechs. It’s a “major vote of confidence” for the striker, said ITV’s Gabriel Clarke on Twitter.
When asked if the skipper would keep his place, the Three Lions boss said: “You can assume that, yes, absolutely. He is fundamental not only to the goals he scores but the build-up play and everything else he brings.
“I know there will be a lot of questions being asked about him at the moment but he has been through that 100 times before and I have answered that in this role several times in the past and he has come up with the goals that have won us the next games and I expect that to be the same moving forward.”
‘Creativity is the issue - not Kane’
Kane’s Euro 2020 performances have been in the spotlight for obvious reasons but according to fellow England forwards Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden they say the team’s creativity is the real issue, not their No.9.
“He hasn’t scored in two games,” said Sterling. “That’s not that serious. I’m sure when we need him most, he’ll score. We as a team need to produce more for him, but it’s two games. Of course he’s a player who knows he can score in every game, and he will be the first person to be disappointed, but I know when it’s crunch time Harry will be there, that’s for sure.”
Foden added: “I have seen a few comments blaming Harry but we didn’t create enough for him to even have a chance [against Scotland]. It is something to work on and hopefully we can just keep getting better.”
Kane’s start against the Czechs “should end a few bizarre threads and thoughts”, says The Times’s Henry Winter. Agreeing with Sterling and Foden, Winter tweeted: “The issue is not Kane - the issue is getting him the proper support and service. Full-backs pushing up more and delivering better crosses. Midfield being quicker to find Kane. Not rocket science.”
Crouch: one kick can change everything
Ex-England striker Peter Crouch believes that just one moment can change Kane’s fortunes at Euro 2020.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Crouch said: “Should the manager change Harry Kane? The only answer to that is no. There is nobody else in the squad I would want a chance to fall to, nobody else I would want to take a penalty. In the mad world of tournaments, you are only ever one kick away from everything changing. Let the turnaround for Harry begin on Tuesday.”
Czech Republic vs. England kicks off at 8pm on Tuesday and is live on ITV