Harry Kane dismisses fitness concerns as England chase Euro 2024 final place

Harry Kane has rebuffed suggestions he is struggling with his fitness as he aims to make history with an England side surrounded by a new “aura” at Euro 2024.

The England captain was substituted during extra time of the quarter-final win over Switzerland, watching the penalty shoot-out from the side of the pitch.

Eyebrows were raised after a poor outing for the Bayern Munich striker but manager Gareth Southgate revealed “cramp” was the reason for Kane’s withdrawal and he is all but certain to start Wednesday’s semi-final clash with the Netherlands.

Gareth Southgate puts his arm around Harry Kane on the touchline
Harry Kane, right, struggled with cramp against Switzerland (Bradley Collyer/PA)

England’s all-time leading goalscorer has found the back of the net twice during the Euros but has drawn criticism for some of his performances and was also replaced with 20 minutes to go in the 1-1 group stage draw with Denmark.

“Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, I know everyone wants me to score three goals a game and I want to score three goals a game, but it’s not always the case,” he said.

“Maybe sometimes when I don’t score I think the fitness one is an easy one just to throw in –  ‘Why? Is there a reason? Is it his fitness? Is it not?’.

“But like I said before the tournament, I felt like I had a good preparation going into it, I’m getting better and sharper as the games go along.

“We have a semi-final ahead of us and of course I’d love nothing more than to score a couple of goals and get through to the final.”

Kane, 30, also addressed negative talk surrounding how deep he has been dropping to be involved in matches.

“It’s something I’ve got used to throughout my career,” he replied.

“If you look over the last couple of major tournaments, there’s always been at some stage question marks over my fitness or my form.

“I always say I want to score in every game, I want to try and help the team in every game from that sense, but also my role isn’t just scoring goals. My role is a lot of work defensively, a lot of work without the ball, a lot of work in leadership.”

Kane also believes the England squad as a whole has dealt with the “noise” that surrounds the bid for back-to-back European Championship finals.

After losing on penalties to Italy three years ago at Wembley, Kane will be aiming to see off the Dutch and then lead England to a first major men’s trophy in 58 years.

Southgate has spoken about the “unusual environment” surrounding his side this summer as expectation increases following recent improvements in tournament football.

Asked how he and Southgate addressed the levels of criticism aimed at the team, Kane replied: “There wasn’t (a specific) meeting – as one of the leaders and as the captain you’re always talking to players, especially the newer players.

“The expectation has maybe been a little bit different from the start and maybe the noise has been a bit louder but I think we’ve all handled that really well. Some players will use it as motivation, some players will block it out.

“We’re leaning on a lot of experience, we’re leaning on being here before, even just the perception from other teams  – when you’ve been in finals, semi-finals on a consistent basis that gives you a certain aura as a team other nations look at.

“That’s down to our own work. We’ve built that up over past tournaments and now we’re in a situation where we deserve to be.”