Harry Kane failed to score in England's three group games
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Harry Kane says he is ready to “peak” going into the vital knock-out stages of the European Championship and has spent his whole career proving the doubters wrong.
The England captain has failed to score in the three group games so far with questions being asked over the striker’s fitness and whether he is distracted by his desire to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer.
Having finished the last World Cup as top-scorer, with six goals – with five of those goals in group games – Kane said he could be about to do the opposite and score more heavily in the “most important games” starting with Tuesday’s last-16 tie against Germany.
“People are quick to change their mind, it wasn’t too long ago when I won the Golden Boot (as Premier League’s top-scorer) and I was the best thing in the world, people were raving about me, and that’s why I’ve always said, as a footballer, you can’t get too high or too low, you just have to have that neutral mode – self-belief is a huge thing,” the England captain said.
“I’ve always believed in myself. I could go 10, 15 games without scoring but give me a chance and I’d back myself to score it. I’m in a good place. Going into Tuesday night, physically, I’m in the best shape of the tournament so far, and that’s what I kind of wanted going into this.
“I felt maybe in Russia (in the 2018 World Cup) I started on fire, scored loads of goals, then maybe didn’t have my best performances in the most important games, the quarters and the semi-finals.
“So coming into this, physically, I wanted to make sure I was peaking at the right time and obviously we won’t know until Tuesday night if that’s the case, but that’s the way I feel it’s going.”
Euros – Road to the final
Kane has been questioned in the past – after his breakthrough campaign at Tottenham he met head-on the claim he was going to be a so-called ‘one-season wonder’ – and he continues to react in the same way.
“It’s definitely not the first time people have doubted me in my career, that’s for sure. That’s part and parcel of it,” the 27-year-old said. “I’ve said all along as a striker you go through some great spells where you are scoring every game and everything you touch turns into goals and then there are some where things don’t fall your way, the keeper makes some saves and that’s probably the way it’s gone in this tournament so far.
“I know, especially the first two games, I could have probably played better. For me, it is about trying to peak at the right time and the right time in tournament football is the knockout stages. I feel good, I feel sharp. I felt good, definitely in the third game. This training week is going to be great and hopefully I can come into my best form into the knockout stage and that will help the team.”
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Kane has made it clear he finally wants to leave Spurs with Manchester City having informed him they have put together an opening offer worth up to £100million. Even so Tottenham, who are yet to receive an offer, are telling potential candidates to be their new head coach – the latest of which is Nuno Espirito Santo – that they have no intention of selling their best player this summer.
Kane insisted the uncertainty over his future and – should he stay – who may succeed Jose Mourinho has not affected his form.
“I feel like when I come away with England I’m just fully focused on England,” he said. “My brother (Charlie) is my agent, but the only time I’ve spoke to my brother really over the last few weeks is ‘good luck, let’s get a win, and let’s take England all the way’.
“So it doesn’t really bother me about the outside noise. When I’m here I’m with the boys, I try to help the boys, be a leader in the team, I need to get to know the boys, see what makes certain players tick, and the younger lads, helping them, so I feel like I’ve got enough on my plate to worry about anything outside of England.
“That’s where I’m at and of course I feel like it’s one of them where if you’re not scoring as a striker, people look for every little angle why you’re not scoring and that’s probably the case in this tournament so far. But, like I said, as long as I’m focused, I’ve got the self-belief I have, I’m not worried about anyone else.”
That mental strength, he argued, is mirrored in the rest of the squad.
“We have a lot of individuals in this team who have huge self-belief in their own ability,” Kane said. “As a team I think we’ve had good experiences – a few of us were in Russia and that was an amazing experience but we all want to go that one step further, so I think that’s massive for us.
“Of course it’s easy talking now but we have got to go out there on Tuesday and prove it not only to ourselves but to everyone else as well because that is the only way you become a big nation, a big team, is to win these high pressure games, so whether it was Germany, France or Portugal or whoever it was, the mind-set was the same – it is a big game in the knock-out stage and we will be ready for it.”