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Harry Kane can and will withstand the burden of failure with England at the World Cup

England’s captain steps up and owns his mistake.

England v France: Quarter Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

It was not a good day for Harry Kane. England’s captain stepped up to the spot for the second time to take a penalty kick against his friend and club captain Hugo Lloris, and with a chance to level the score against France in a World Cup quarterfinal match.

Kane had converted the first penalty kick against Lloris earlier in the match, and as one of the best penalty takers in the Premier League the expectation was that this was a gimme. But this time Harry Kane did the unthinkable: he missed. And not just missed, he missed badly, skying his shot well over the bar, sending France to the World Cup semifinals with a 2-1 win.

Cue the “Spursy” jokes.

After the final whistle, Kane spent a long time on the pitch, crouched down in agony while his club teammate Lloris and the rest of the France squad celebrated. Once again, football would not be coming home.

It would be unfair to put the burden of England’s World Cup loss in Qatar squarely on Kane’s shoulders. There were plenty of other opportunities to score (Harry Maguire’s wide-open header one notable example), and Kane played an outstanding match other than... you know. Gareth Southgate’s substitutions in this match were... let’s just call them “questionable.” But Kane is England’s captain, and in a defining moment for himself and his team, he blew it.

Footballers are human beings. Even the best players sometimes make mistakes, or miss game winning shots, or penalty kicks with everything on the line. Kane understands this, and knows that the captain’s armband comes with the implicit burden of accepting responsibility for not just his own performance, but that of the entire team. He also loves playing for England even more than he loves playing for Tottenham Hotspur and deeply understands what wearing the armband for the Three Lions means. So he stepped up and took responsibility, for everything.

Knowing Harry, it’ll take him a while to get over what happened in Qatar on Saturday. Also knowing Harry, he will turn that disappointment and sadness into motivation to continue to push to win things, both at international and club level. He’ll suffer the slings and arrows of England’s notoriously fickle and tribal football fans for a while, and the tabloid media will no doubt break out the pitchforks and torches. It’ll be unfair, but eventually people will come around.

There are two things I know about Harry Kane: he is probably the best and most gifted England striker in a generation, and he’s also one of the most maniacally driven football players I’ve ever followed closely. If anyone has the mental fortitude to put something like this behind him, it’s Kane. Harry Kane has broad shoulders, and can handle that kind of pressure. Harry Kane already has.