Harry Kane insists perfect start to Euro 2020 campaign and Nations League victory 'would top our 2018'

Harry Kane insists England can eclipse their World Cup heroics by making a perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying and winning this summer’s Nations League.

England enjoyed a summer to remember last year by reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia, during which Kane won the Golden Boot.

But the striker believes it can be bettered if England win their European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, and lift their first trophy since Le Tournoi in 1997.

England may have to face the Czechs at Wembley on Friday night without Marcus Rashford, whose ankle injury sustained in Manchester United’s FA Cup defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers forced him to miss training on Tuesday.

Asked whether there was any way this year could top last summer, Kane said: “Hopefully. Hopefully we can win some silverware. If we win the Nations League, 2019 will top it. I have said before, to have a chance to win a trophy in an England shirt does not come around very often.

“If we have a good summer and win that trophy, in my eyes, it is a better year. Of course, 2018 was fantastic, but for me, the main thing is the team and we want to win things.”

On the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign to reach the finals, which England would largely play at Wembley, Kane added: “I think we feel that expectation, where people now expect us to do well and I think before the World Cup there was no expectation.

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“It is great that we have turned that around. It is down to us as players to use that experience we have had and to manage expectations.

“We know we want to win it and we want to make fans happy and be proud, but we know there is a long way ahead. It won’t be easy.

“Every top team is trying to improve and we saw some top nations at the World Cup, like France and Croatia, but we have to focus on ourselves. We know the chance to play a Euros where most of the games are at home is an amazing opportunity and you don’t often get that in your career, so we will try to make the most of it.”

Other than managing expectation, England’s players are having to put club rivalries aside during this camp as the Premier League and Champions League reach their climax.

Kane celebrates - Credit: Action Images
England’s players are having to put club rivalries aside during this campCredit: Action Images

Kane and his Tottenham Hotspur team-mates will face England’s Manchester City players in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, while City are also battling with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.

The England squad was split by big-club cliques between 1998 and 2004, when Liverpool and Manchester United players would try to avoid each other, but Kane says this generation can park their rivalries.

“Since I’ve been with England, the atmosphere has been good,” said Kane. “[Jordan] Henderson’s getting on with Raheem [Sterling], and [Kyle] Walker and Trent [Alexander-Arnold]. So, again, with Hendo and Raheem for example, they’ve known each other a long time. Of course they want to beat each other, but they’re not going to let that get in the way of what’s important this week, which is the international game.

“I don’t need to talk to them about that or anything. They do that naturally. I think everyone looks forward to coming away with England and meeting up again. Of course you have a bit of banter about it, but everyone is on to England. That’s important.

“When you come away, you have to give 100 per cent, so everything else is put to the side. When you go back [to your clubs], it starts up again. I think that’s been part of our success. We’ve heard about things happening in the past, people sitting on different tables and teams being divided. You just can’t have that in a team. You need to be 100 per cent together.”

Kane will celebrate his 26th birthday this summer, but believes Lionel Messi, 31, and Cristiano Ronaldo, 34, are proving that he can still be some way off his prime.

“At 26, it’s kind of on the border,” said Kane. “Maybe 26, 29, 30. Nowadays, with sports science, I feel the prime can be a bit later.

Late twenties. I hope to be, maybe 28 or 30, that’s maybe when you’re going to be in your prime.

“If you keep yourself in shape – Ronaldo has proven that, and Messi and players like that. I’ve still got a little bit to go, 26 isn’t too old. It feels old in this squad, but I’d like to think that, a couple of years after that, I’ll be in my prime.

“You don’t really know until you look back on your career through the years and see when you were playing at your best. I feel each year I’ve improved. This year I’ve improved as well. I’d like to think that, in a couple more years, I’ll be in my prime. But, again, you don’t really know.”

Tottenham have suffered three defeats in five games since Kane’s return from injury, in which he has scored four goals.

“I’ve come back fresh,” said Kane. “The results haven’t been what we wanted, but, me personally, I feel good and in a great position to finish the season strong.”