Harry Kane has only scored two goals in his last 11 England appearances
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Gareth Southgate has broken from his normal protocol by giving Harry Kane a huge vote of confidence and confirming England’s captain will start against Czech Republic 48 hours before the final group game at Wembley.
England manager Southgate usually likes to keep his team selections, even involving his senior players, close to his chest and has only occasionally confirmed one of his picks on the night before a game.
But Southgate has taken the unprecedented step of telling Kane he will play on Tuesday night and publicly confirming it on Sunday, 48 hours before the Czech Republic game, after the 27-year-old failed to score in either of England’s opening two games.
Asked by ITV if Kane will start against Czech Republic, Southgate said: “You can assume that yeah, absolutely, I don’t mind giving you that one. He is our most important player, there is no doubt about that, you only have to look at his goalscoring record with us to see his importance to the team.
“He is fundamental not only for the goals he scores, but the build-up play and everything else he brings. I know there will be a lot of questions being asked about him at the moment, but he has been through that 100 times before.
“I have answered that in this role several times in the past and he has come up with the goals that have won us the next games, and I expect that to be the same moving forward.”
Kane was substituted against Croatia and Scotland, and has now only scored two goals in his last 11 England appearances, but Southgate insists the striker retains his full confidence.
“In one of the games, we were already ahead and we needed energy, we needed to press and keep the lead and didn’t need additional goals,” said Southgate. “During the World Cup, we ended up with Harry playing a lot of football and we felt we needed to manage the load a bit this time and we have got good options on the bench to bring people into the game.”
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Kane has also received the backing of his former Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Kieran Trippier, who insisted he should not just be judged purely on goals.
“With Harry, he works so hard for the team, people might not recognise what he does off the ball, the pressing,” said Trippier. “I believe in Harry and I know he will score goals, but it is the work he does for the team. Some people might not recognise what he does – the link-up play. Harry’s chances will come and, for sure, he will score goals.
“Harry’s had an unbelievable season with Spurs. Harry is fit, he’s working hard every single day in training and it’s just about trying to get the chances to him. But he will score goals, Harry.
“He’s working hard and we all know we need to create as much as we can in the games and for sure Harry will score goals. He’s working so hard for the team off the ball and, like I said before, I think people are not really seeing that and noticing that. But Harry’s a fantastic professional and for sure he’ll start scoring goals.”
Kieran Trippier has backed his former Spurs team-mate to find his form during the tournament
Asked whether or not Kane is undroppable, Trippier added: “That’s not my decision, but he’s our captain, he’s our leader. Like I said, he’s a big player for us and we just need to create chances for him to score goals.
“He’s an unbelievable professional and we just need to try and get him on the end of chances and try and create as much for him as we can. Harry’s a goalscorer, he’s shown throughout the season his assists, his goals, so hopefully he can start scoring goals for us which I know he will.”
England will go through to the knockout stages as Group D winners if they beat Czech Republic, which could land them a last-16 tie at Wembley against France, Germany or Portugal.
Finishing second in the group with a draw on Tuesday night might give England an easier last-16 game against Sweden or Spain in Copenhagen, but Trippier said: “We want to finish first, we want to win every single game. We’re in a good position, four points, and we want to go into every game to win.
“Tuesday will be no different, so we just need to focus on the training field and go into Tuesday with a winning mindset to get the three points.”