Going into the 2018 World Cup, the expectations of England were very low. However, team captain Harry Kane seems to enjoy putting himself under an enormous amount of pressure, and indeed thrive when he does so. This has led to Kane being considered one of the best players in the Premier League, and certainly, England’s best hope at the World Cup.
While England have played just one game, there is certainly hope now that they will be able to progress further in the tournament than they have in a while, and even mutterings about the chances of winning it, considering surprisingly poor performances from many of the favourites.
Kane has started the tournament well, scoring both goals in the team’s 2 – 1 win over Tunisia in their first match. It was a performance typical of the Tottenham Hotspur player, making vital contributions to the match when everything was on the line.
Nonetheless, Kane will have been disappointed. On Sunday night he said that he wanted to score a hat trick in order to catch Cristiano Ronaldo in the Golden Boot race. Many will have thought that he was joking, but it was clear to his teammates that he definitely was not. Following the match, Kane’s teammate Kieran Trippier said that Kane will have been “devastated” to leave Volgograd for St Petersburg after the match with two goals to his name, not three.
Kane is being compared to Ronaldo in discussion on a more frequent basis than ever before, but Ronaldo repeatedly proves that he is an extremely tough act to follow. In his opening match in Sochi, he scored a fantastic hat trick, and this was followed by another goal in Portugal’s second match against Morocco. However, it is not really possible to compare Kane to someone who may well be the greatest goal-scorer in history when he is yet to win a proper trophy in his career.
However, Kane has described Ronaldo as his hero, and the England captain is desperate to reach the same heights. Kane is known to admire Ronaldo for the way in which he makes the most of every aspect of his game and his worth ethic. There are strong hints of this in Kane’s decisiveness, athleticism, leadership style, and more, and it is fair to say that Kane is the closest England has produced to Ronaldo in a very long time.
Kane makes no secret of his ambition, when he was asked in Volgograd about aiming for Ronaldo’s achievements, Kane simply said that he wants to be the best there is, exactly the same thing that Ronaldo has been saying for well over a decade.
Speaking earlier in the week Kane said, “To be the best player in the world you have to aim high, you can’t aim low. Put no limits on yourself, nobody should. I worked hard to get where I am, I have a lot of determination and I enjoy being here.”
Kane is just 24 years old but he already has 108 Premier League goals. The next step is international competition. England had a highly disappointing Euro 2016 and Spurs only reached the last 16 of the Champions League last season. As a result, there is a lot of pressure on Kane in this World Cup; however, he could not really have started the tournament any better.
Kane has taken on a huge amount of responsibility in this tournament and it is evident whenever he speaks, “It is about stepping it up. I want to prove myself at a major tournament, I want to be up there with the best in the world and the only way to do that is to perform on the big stage and in the big moments. I have been itching to get out there and showcase myself on the big stage.”
Whenever Kane is criticised, or doubts are expressed about his abilities, he manages to turn it into motivation to better himself and prove his critics wrong. While this is rare these days, he still works in the same way, “I had to prove people wrong throughout my career and I love proving to myself I can do it. Ronaldo is the best in the world, up there with Messi, but the challenge is there to be with them.”
Kane’s attitude is well known to his friends and teammates. Kieran Trippier has played for Spurs, with Kane, for three years now. He was asked in a recent interview what makes Kane special. His answer, encompassing Kane’s ambition, drive, and dedication, could very well have been describing Ronaldo.
Trippier said, “It’s his character, his personality, I see that on a day-to-day basis. He dedicates his life to football. He’s so professional. He’s the first one in, the last one out every single day we’re in. He looks after himself, doesn’t drink alcohol or anything.”
Together with those high levels of professionalism is a firm self-belief and a determination to always do his best. “He’s not happy when he doesn’t score, he would have been devastated he didn’t get another goal,” Trippier added. “His mind set for every game is that he’s going to score.”
You just have to look at the 2016-17 race for the golden boot to see Kane’s determination. Kane was behind Romelu Lukaku with just two games left of the season. He responded by scoring four goals against Leicester City and three against Hull City to win the trophy back.
England boss Gareth Southgate has also commented on Kane’s self-believe and said that it is an attribute that puts him with the true elite, “You see it in the top, top players,” Southgate said. “The best do. The Gerrards and the Shearers and the Lampards do. I could go on. It’s the psychological strength that separates the really top people from the ones that are the next level down.”
Southgate has said that the team is “fortunate” to have Kane while Trippier has talked about his teammate with genuine enthusiasm and admiration, “We are all buzzing he’s on our team,” Trippier said. “He has a presence, when he’s with you just feed off him. He lifts you when he’s around.”
England next face Panama on Sunday afternoon and Kane is sure to view it as an opportunity to score heavily and even things out with Ronaldo. Panama were thrashed 3 – 0 by Belgium in their opening game, and Kane will be hoping to inflict a similar score line upon the Panamanians this weekend.
Marcus Rashford has said that he thinks Kane will go from strength to strength as the tournament progresses and his best is yet to come. Rashford was brought on in the second half of the match as a replacement for Raheem Sterling, but was unable to get on the scoresheet himself.
Speaking to reporters at England’s base he said, “He’s been a brilliant leader for us leading up to the tournament, as well as now that we have started the tournament. He always leads by example and there’s no better way to do it than by scoring goals, like he has been doing. He’s a top forward. His career is only going to go up and up. He’s very young and at this stage of his career, he’s going to keep improving and getting better, so who knows how good he can get?”
In bad news for the team, a scan at a hospital in St Petersburg has revealed that Dele Alli has a minor thigh strain and is likely to have to sit out of the next match. He has taken a break from training and it is unlikely that Southgate will be willing to risk him with the match against Belgium coming next Thursday.
However, Southgate still has options, Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed as a sub in the opening game and could be brought in, while Danny Rose may replace Ashley Young at left wing-back.
This is Panamas first ever World Cup and they really shouldn’t present too much of a problem for England. England are 1/5 favourites to win the match, and the shortest odds in the correct score market are 15/4 on a 2 – 0 win. However, with Kane determined to inflict more damage, it is not impossible to imagine a bigger win and the odds on a 3/0 win are not much longer at 19/4.
At present Cristiano Ronaldo is still the clear favourite to win the Golden Boot with odds of 9/10. Harry Kane and Diego Costa are some way behind at 13/2. However, if Kane can score enough against Panama these odds could shorten and considering that Ronaldo did not manage another hat trick in his second game, there is every chance that a real competition could emerge for the Golden Boot.