Harry Kane has become accustomed to being showered with praise. This week, former England midfielder Jamie Redknapp described the Three Lions striker as “our Messi, our Ronaldo”.
Yet despite such generous tributes having become almost commonplace, humility remains a hallmark of this model professional. You wouldn’t know to speak to him, for example, that Kane currently leads the race for Russia 2018’s adidas Golden Boot, having scored five goals in just two appearances.
It’s also clear that, while he would love to follow in the top-scoring footsteps of legends like Eusebio, Ronaldo and England’s very own Gary Lineker, he will be pursuing that dream by focusing on the collective.
“Obviously it would be fantastic to win it,” Kane said when asked about the top scorer prize. “The main priority is getting through. But I feel like if I play well and the team plays well, hopefully I’ll score and things there will take care of themselves.”
Kane will be hoping to boost his chances against Colombia on Tuesday, with an open, attacking affair widely expected. “Hopefully it will be us creating most of the chances, even though they have some great attacking players like [Radamel] Falcao and James [Rodriguez],” he said. “We know we are going to have to be on it. But we have played some great attacking football so far.”
England have only won two World Cup knockout games since 1990: against Denmark in 2002 and Ecuador in 2006. But Kane, who was not born when Sir Bobby Robson’s side progressed to the semi-finals in Italy 28 years ago, believes this young Three Lions team have a great opportunity to make history.
“That’s the aim,” he said. “Our record hasn’t been great over the years – we know it and the fans know it. So, for us, it’s about trying to change that.”
With knockout football upon them, Kane & Co could also be challenged to improve England’s notoriously poor record in penalty shootouts. But while spot-kick practice has been woven into Gareth Southgate’s training sessions, the team’s star striker – who scored two textbook penalties against Panama – says replicating the context is near-impossible.
“It’s something we’ve done a little bit of work on but penalties are hard to train for,” he explained. “When you’re in a shootout, you’re tired because you’ve played 120 minutes, so mentally and physically it’s a totally different scenario.
“I am someone who likes to have a routine to take into a game but some players are different. Some players wait for the keeper to dive and have a slow run-up, while others pick a spot and go. For me, it’s all about routine.”