England's Harry Kane still on 'a learning curve' despite success in Russia
Despite scoring six goals at the World Cup and being in pole position to win the tournament's Golden Boot, the Tottenham Hotspur striker is striving to continue improving
England striker Harry Kane hopes to put a World Cup Golden Boot next to the two Premier League top goalscorer awards he has already won, but insists he still has plenty areas to improve before he can consider his quest to be the best complete.
Kane hit six goals in six games in Russia and, so long as nobody from France or Croatia surpass him in Sunday’s final, will become only the second Englishman to top-score at a global finals.
French forwards Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann both have three goals going into tonight’s match, while Croatia have a trio of players on two.
“Hopefully nobody scores a hat-trick,” Kane joked ahead of the final. “Hopefully it’s a nil-nil and someone wins on penalties. If I do win it, it would be something I’d obviously be very proud of though. As I always say, there are things I can improve on. I feel there have been games at this tournament that I could have done better, but that’s all part of the learning curve.”
During the World Cup group stages, the Tottenham Hotspur striker produced the kind of form he has shown in the Premier League, grabbing a brace against Tunisia before following it up with a hat-trick against Panama. Yet as England burrowed deeper into the tournament, his form dipped.
Between the Round of 16 match with Colombia and Saturday’s third-place play-off with Belgium, Kane managed only seven shots at goal, hitting the target just once, a converted penalty against Colombia.
He will turn 25 later this month, but looked tired and ineffective in the latter stages of the competition.
With the Premier League set to resume in less than four weeks, he will be afforded minimal recovery time.
“The most important thing is mental,” Kane said. “Physically, the lads that have been here, this has been kind of like our pre-season. If we want to be fit for the first game, we need to keep on top of it.
"It’s the world we live in. It’s hard with the season starting so soon, but it’s just something we need to deal with. Physically, your body will take you where you would never think it could. It’s always mentally.”
There is a sense that Kane’s World Cup exploits should be accompanied by an asterisk, such is the manner in which his sextet of strikes arrived: Four from the spot, one deflected off his heel, and a header from two yards. He says he could not care less.
“Look, you’re playing the best teams in the world and won’t get five or 10 chances per game,” he added. “I’ve had a couple I feel like I could have done better with, especially in the semi-final, but that’s part of being a striker — you’re going to miss some, you’re going to score some.
"If nothing else, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it on this stage. If I get every goal from a set-play I’m not really bothered.”
Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld knows Kane better than most, having played alongside him at Spurs for the past three seasons. After keeping his domestic teammate quiet in St Petersburg, he called him “one of the best strikers in the world”.
“He’s a wonderful player and very young as well, people forget that. His desire to become one of the best - maybe the best - is there. So I think this is just the beginning for him,” Alderweireld said.
Before adding with a smile: “The only thing is he didn’t score against Belgium…”
Updated: July 15, 2018 07:25 PM