Harry Kane is now the World Cup’s leading goal scorer heading into the third round of group stage matches. Kane scored a hat trick in England’s 6-1 pounding of Panama, and according to England manager Gareth Southgate, he’s poised to take his place among the very best players in the world alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
“Clearly the stage to do that is this one. He’s started brilliantly. The penalty … you can dismiss penalties as easy, but the length of time he had to wait and the number of distractions which made him refocus and start again; that tells you about the mental toughness he has got.
“He’s there in the scoring charts. He’s up at the top. We wouldn’t swap him for anyone in the tournament in terms of No 9s because you know that, when he gets opportunities, he’ll bury them. Just as important is the way he presses, holds the ball up, contributes to the overall game, and sacrifices himself for the team.”
It’s hard to argue. Kane’s five goals haven’t exactly been spectacular — he had basically two tap-ins against Tunisia and his hat trick against Panama was one of the dumber ones you’ll see. But footballers take the chances that are offered to them, and Kane had both the intelligence to get into the right positions, the fortitude to put away two penalties, and a fair amount of luck. You can make the argument that we haven’t even seen what Kane can really do yet.
Southgate implied that he’s likely to make some major changes to his squad for the final group stage match against Belgium, rotating in a number of little-used (or yet unused) players for Thursday.
“Over the next 36 hours or so we have to decide what our priority is and, for me, the harmony of the group is very high on that list. Before the tournament we had a good performance against Costa Rica with a different XI to those who played against Nigeria a few days earlier. I have complete trust in all the players. We’d look a bit different because of the profile of players in certain positions but I know we’ll get a high level of performance. At this moment my thoughts are with the players who haven’t played as much, but I have to consider everything before I decide upon my team.”
That’s good news for Tottenham Hotspur’s Danny Rose, who came off the bench against Panama, Dele Alli, who missed the match as a precaution after picking up a slight injury, and Eric Dier, who was a last-minute sub against Tunisia. Dier in particular was shortlisted as a possible England captain, so it’s a little strange that Southgate has yet to give him any meaningful minutes in Russia.