Three Lions skipper Harry Kane last night declared himself fit – and raring to go for his first goals of the World Cup. Harry was top scorer at the 2018 tournament in Russia but is yet to hit the target in Qatar.
The hitman, who turned provider as England battled through their opening three matches, now hopes to open the floodgates against Senegal tonight.
He said, “I would love to be sitting here with two or three goals, for sure, but the group games have gone well. The games have not been too physical and going into the knock-out stages I feel really good – fit and sharp and as match-fit as I will ever feel.”
Manager Gareth Southgate also will not be surprised if Harry, 29, opens his account in the 7pm knockout game against the African Nations champions. But Gareth insisted, “With Harry, you know the goals are coming. So the longer the period without them, then you know they’re coming pretty soon.’’
He added, “We’ve always wanted to bring the country on a journey with us and to create nights that people remember forever. I think we’ve had a few of those over the last few years and we hope that Sunday’s another one.’’
And he assured anxious fans that the squad have been preparing intensively in case of a dreaded penalty shootout. England – who suffered spot-kick heartbreak at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley last year – have won just three out of ten in tournaments. But Gareth said, “We are prepared and we’ve had a process we’ve followed.
“We’ve done that over the last few months but there’s so many other aspects to the game you’ve got to get right. We’re aiming to win the game and avoid extra-time and avoid penalties. But if we need to go 120 minutes or to go beyond that, we need to be ready mentally and physically – and I believe we are.”
England have been further boosted by the form of Manchester United star Marcus Rashford who, with three goals, is in contention for the Golden Boot top scorer award.
Marcus, 25, was devastated when he was among those who missed a penalty at the Euro final and was targeted by racist trolls. But Gareth said the striker was once again playing “with a smile on his face” — and remains one of England’s best spot-kick hopes.
He said: “Marcus is one of the best penalty takers in the world. Statistically he is an 85 per cent person, but even the best miss 15 per cent. So in the end you have got to trust your players that they are going to deliver in those big moments.’’
Senegal, nicknamed the Lions of Teranga, go into the game as underdogs but Gareth warned his players not to underestimate them. It will be the first time England have played Senegal, and Gareth said they will be facing a “well organised and athletic” side who play with “tremendous spirit”.
As he spoke, the lion mascot Harry Mane was firing up fans among the 8,000 travelling lionhearts who will pack a corner of the 69,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor tonight.
There will be a TV audience of more than 20 million back home. Pub bosses predict 15 million pints could be downed today as beer sales rocket 50 per cent.
Another 20 million pints will be sunk at home. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said, “At home and at the bar, the beer is flowing. When England do well, so do our pubs and breweries.”
Molly Davis of the British Institute of Innkeeping, added, “Sunday’s match will bring cheer to our pubs.”
- The Sun report