Harry Kane: England can’t win Euros in group stages – but we can lose it

Harry Kane – Harry Kane: England can't win Euros in group stages – but we can lose it
Harry Kane is hoping England's game against Slovenia can be their springboard for the rest of the tournament - Getty Images/Franco Arland

Harry Kane may not have hit his best form on the pitch for England at the Euros yet, but the captain produced a masterclass off it on Sunday as he insisted that he and his team-mates could still emerge as winners.

Over the course of 40 enthralling minutes at England’s Blankenhain base, Kane not only put Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer back in their respective boxes, but also restored a sense of order around the squad and manager Gareth Southgate.

Kane likened England’s uninspiring start to the Euros to a major golf championship, in which the world’s best players try to peak in the final two rounds, reminded the nation that he and many of his team-mates had been here before and urged judgment to be saved for the end of the tournament.

The 30-year-old also explained what he, Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham needed to do in order to get the best out of each other.

England will truly ride the wave of discontent that followed the Denmark draw only if they convincingly beat Slovenia on Tuesday night and win Group C. But, in the meantime, Kane offered much-needed perspective.

He said: “In the past two tournaments, we have been on the same amount of points, won the first game and drew the second, but, yes, I don’t think we played well in the Denmark game. I think we do want to go out there Tuesday and put a marker down and, hopefully, take that for the rest of the tournament.

“Overall, I think we are calm, we have been here before, we have a lot of experience, it is not a time to panic but a time to improve. I love my other sports and always in these tournaments at this early stage, it is almost like a boxer in the first couple of rounds seeing where everyone is at and how they feel. Or a golfer in a major tournament in the first round, don’t play yourself out of the tournament. Be calm. That is where we are at. We are looking at where we need to improve and, of course, we can improve. But it is not the time to panic and change everything. We just need to change a few fine details.”

England went into the Euros as tournament favourites and Southgate has suggested that may be weighing heavily on some of his players. But Kane’s belief has not been impacted by two below-par performances, or the fast starts made by hosts Germany, Spain and Portugal.

“We absolutely believe we can win it,” Kane said. “You can win the first two games, 3-0, 3-0, and get carried away – everyone is saying you are going to win it and then you come up against some adversity in the first knockout game and you’re out.

“I don’t think it is a bad thing to go through a bit of a tough time to begin with, it widens the focus and makes you realise you can be a bad game away from being out of the tournament. We’ve coped with that well in past tournaments, it’s always a different journey for different teams. Whether we are classed as favourites or not, we’ve always had belief we can win it and it’s down to us to go out there and try and achieve that.”

No issue with Kane playing alongside Foden and Bellingham

Questions have been raised about whether Kane can effectively play with Foden and Bellingham, with all three players naturally gravitating towards the No 10 position.

Kane gave an honest assessment in his answer by saying: “I think maybe a little bit more positional discipline is needed from us. When we look back at the games, maybe there are times where we were a bit too deep. Not just us, certainly over the pitch where we had too many numbers behind their press or block. When we play more with each other it will get better and we will have more understanding. So, maybe a bit more discipline in our positional play.

“We all want to get on the ball and make a difference, which is great, we are all players who love getting it in those positions. But we also need to be a threat going forward, which we haven’t been compared to our usual selves. It’s something we will work on and see if we can improve, but I don’t think there’s an issue with us three players playing with each other. The seasons we all had speak for themselves and there’s no reason why we can’t start ramping it up on the pitch and getting to a level we know we can.

Southgate has faced accusations of failing to get the best out of his players, but Kane, who has worked under Thomas Tuchel, Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino, had no hesitation when asked if he remained the best man for the England job.

“Yes, absolutely,” Kane said. “I can’t speak highly enough of Gareth and what he has done for this team and the nation. In terms of where we were and where we are now as a national team is completely different.

“I think he’s brilliant on the details of making sure there is no stone unturned, everyone knows what they are going to be doing going into games. Just as a person, giving us the freedom going into games to be ourselves, whether that is off the pitch or on the pitch. I think being England manager is a really difficult job, he knows that and we know that.

“There are always going to be people who criticise or doubt him, but his record speaks for itself – it’s really successful with us. Like all of us, he’s determined to take that next step and win it, and that’s what we are all really determined to do. He’ll do what’s best for the nation and make the decisions that are best for the team. All I will say is get behind him and support him as the players do.”