Harry Kane insists he will be at ‘peak sharpness’ for England against Slovakia

Harry Kane believes he will be at “peak sharpness” as he looks to continue his fine knockout goalscoring record for England at Euro 2024.

Captain Kane may be England’s all-time leading goalscorer but his strike in the draw with Denmark was his first in the group stage of a major finals since the 2018 World Cup.

However, he will be buoyed by his recent record once the business end of the tournament begins against Slovakia on Sunday, having scored four in four at Euro 2020 as England were eventually beaten on penalties by Italy.

England’s Harry Kane celebrates scoring their side’s third goal of the Euro 2020 quarter-final win over Ukraine
Kane celebrates scoring England’s third goal of the Euro 2020 quarter-final win over Ukraine (Marco Iacobucci/AP)

At the World Cup in 2022, he again drew a blank in the group stage before scoring two in two – although he did miss a penalty in the quarter-final defeat to France.

England face Slovakia in the last 16 in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday night looking to book a Euro 2024 quarter-final date with Switzerland.

Kane will be hoping to extend his impressive run in all-or-nothing international fixtures as he explained why he feels he grows into competitions.

“I think it’s kind of the process of the tournament,” he said.

“I think naturally, you’re physically stronger and naturally you’re sharper as you play more games.

“So we’ve had three games in a short space of time so I feel like not just for me, but a lot of players come into their peak sharpness at the knockout stage and that’s what I found in especially recent tournaments as well.

“Being the striker in the team obviously I want to score goals and help the team get through to the next round, but if it is not me who scores and we get through anyway, I’m not going to complain.

“It could be down to just the sharpness aspect of it but ultimately, I enjoy these games I think knockout football is a different prospect to the group stage and we’ve handled that well in the past and now it’s time to do that again.”

England’s Harry Kane scores against Denmark at Euro 2024
England’s Harry Kane scores against Denmark at Euro 2024. (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Kane’s scrappy finish in the 1-1 draw with Denmark was one of only two goals England managed across their three Group C games – prompting widespread criticism for poor performances despite doing enough to progress as group winners.

Jeers were heard at the end of both the Denmark and Slovenia draws, while plastic beer cups were hurled towards manager Gareth Southgate.

“I think if I’m totally honest, I think 99 per cent of the fans are behind the team and the manager,” Keane replied when asked if he had a message for supporters ahead of the last-16 clash at the Veltins Arena.

“Of course, both as a player and as a coach, you’re going to have times where people voice their opinion and that’s part and parcel of playing for England.

“That’s the bottom line, but I think like the boss said there, the second half of that game especially it was one of the best atmospheres I’ve been involved in and it shows how much the fans care about the team, care about us trying to win the game and that’s all that matters.

“We’re a very strong group, not just players, but staff as well. We know what it’s taken to achieve what we’ve achieved in the last six years or so longer.

“We know it’s going to be a very tough journey from now until the end of this tournament if we want to go all the way.

“So that’s all that matters is fighting for each other on the training pitch, on the match pitch and that’s what we’re continuing to do and I know the fans are behind us with that.”

Kane hopes his link-up with Jude Bellingham improves as the tournament progresses.

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane celebrate together while playing for England
Kane, right, hopes his link-up with Jude Bellingham can improve (John Walton/PA)

“From a captain’s point of view I am always talking to all of the players and with Jude we are always talking about how we can improve,” Kane said. “We watched clips of the Denmark game to see how we can play better. We would have liked to have played better and had more of a connection.

“But I still feel like the movements are there. We’re moving really well and I thought it was a lot better than the first two games.

“Like I touched on before the tournament, the relationship is still fairly new. Even though we have played a bit together there’s still things we can both do better.

“We’re hoping that as the tournament goes on we grow more and more. From Jude’s point of view he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing.

“In tournament football a lot of things are accelerated really quickly. In the first game he was the best player and man of the match and in the last couple of games none of us have reached the level we really wanted.

“It’s two games. It isn’t the end of the world. I know things are being heightened and there will be a lot of talk, but that’s part and parcel of playing for England in a major tournament.

“Jude has dealt with that unbelievably well for his age. He’s dealt really well with going to Real Madrid for his age.

“So there’s no worries about Jude. He’s a great guy, he believes in himself 100 per cent and from both of our points of view we want to go out there tomorrow and start stepping up our levels.”