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Captain Harry Kane leads the way for a refreshing English football side

Karan M Tejwani | Updated on: 6 July 2018, 13:57 IST
(Juan Mabromata/AFP)

Prior to kick-off in Russia, Nike, the American sportswear provider that deals with the world’s finest athletes, published a poster for one of their most marketable athletes. It was of Harry Kane. It showed a picture of Tottenham Hotspur striker with seven words overlapping it that read “Loan, Loan, Loan, Loan, Lane, Lion, Leader” and ended with Nike’s branding of the word ‘Believe’, followed by their world-famous swoosh.

The poster was an apt representation of Kane’s career path up until this point, but more than anything, it showed exactly why he had become one of the world’s best and why he was leading this bright English team at the World Cup in Russia.

When he was given the armband just weeks before the finals commenced, there was doubt as to whether he could actually do the job like famous captains gone by. Questions were raised over his lack of leadership experience – he’s not even first-choice captain at club level.

There were doubts raised that he couldn’t lead the side due to the fact that he hadn’t won anything big in his career and that Jordan Henderson, who had been part of Liverpool’s famous run to the Champions League final and has been their captain for three years, would’ve been the better choice.

Alexander Nemenov/AFP

Kane’s first World Cup

Further hesitation was raised when it was taken into consideration that this was his first World Cup, and then the whole Christian Eriksen goal “stealing” episode, then the ridicule he faced when the FA tweeted about an off-day he had against Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final, then when his club coach Mauricio Pochettino claimed that Kane was “hurt” by the mimics on the internet. In short, many felt Henderson was a man robbed of leading his nation, but Gareth Southgate, just like so many other decisions over the last few months, got this perfectly right. Kane’s a fantastic footballer, one of the world’s best, but with the armband, he has looked better.


At the World Cup, after most games, he’s the man with the most dirt on his shirt. Constantly battered and bruised, pushed and pulled, he always shows off his composure, keeping his feet on the ground, head in the game and getting the goods for his nation. For the second-youngest roster at the finals, it has proved that having a young captain has worked wonders for this England team. Captains of the past have struggled under the pressure – the likes of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney often failed to impose their authority and sometimes cracked under the pressure of the armband – but Kane has hardly shown signs of that so far.

Racking up the goals

The clashes with Panama and Tunisia were where he racked up the goals – two nights where it was business as usual for him – and England strolled to qualification from their group. Against Colombia in the Round of 16, however, he showed why Southgate took the risk and put all his faith in the forward. Coming up against a tough, rigid Colombian back-line, Kane kept his courage, first to lead the line, and then to drop back once the manager brought on Vardy to take over his job. Both times, he was influential, helping his team on all ends of the pitch through his football and his communication, often directing instructions and making his team’s task easier.

Juan Mabromata/AFP

Undoubtedly, however, his best work came from the spot. In this World Cup, he has taken four penalties – three in standard time and one during the shootout versus the South Americans. All four times, he scored, and impeccably as well. In the penalty shootout was where his true captain’s instincts were most distinct.

In a team with just two recognised penalty-takers, himself and the injured Jamie Vardy, he stepped up to David Ospina for the second time during the night and for the second time, he slotted home with poise and comfort, setting the tone for the rest of the team to follow. The confidence he shows, the skill he displayed that night was well-replicated that night, despite Henderson, the man who was supposed to have the armband, seeing his shot saved.

It’s not just from the spot. Kane is haggled, shoved and jostled as well

Each of the four times, he put his penalties where the goalkeepers wouldn’t want to see It going. Each of the four times, he showed the confidence that England teams that we’ve seen over the years, have lacked. But it’s not just from the spot that he does the work. In standard play, he’s haggled, shoved and jostled and most of the time, comes out on top.

Two years ago, he was a newbie in the side as they crumbled to Iceland in one of England’s most embarrassing defeats. Now in Russia, he’s leading the country where he is displaying his aura for the rest of the side to follow suit on the biggest stage in football.

Following the shoot-out success against Colombia, it was clear what the win meant to him. He became the first England captain to win a World Cup penalty shoot-out and after Eric Dier’s winner, he was thumping the ground in joy, relief and pure passion for the winner inside him earned, arguably, its biggest win.

Possible Golden Boot winner Kane

Six goals in his first World Cup – he’s already level with the previous finals’ top scorer James Rodríguez – and has a good chance to level or beat Ronaldo’s 2002 record of eight – the highest total at the finals in the modern era. His efficiency has been great, although so has his luck to get so many chances from the spot. He has been aided by the poor quality of opposition he has come up against. At this World Cup, he has the best shot conversion percentage – scoring six from just nine shots – as well as the best minutes to goals ratio – scoring once every 45 minutes (or once every half of football he plays).

Next up comes Sweden, a country England have significant history with, and for Harry Kane comes a chance for history of his own – in more than one way. The Nike poster prior to the tournament was not only a path of his career, it inherently explained just how well he did it. The first loan came just seven years ago when was 17, now he’s 24 and leading the line and England team and is likely to keep the armband for a long time, no matter what happens against Sweden. He made it while out on loan, made it while at White Hart Lane, has become England’s best and one of the world’s finest, but now, three wins from the ultimate glory, comes the biggest challenge on his young shoulders.

First published: 6 July 2018, 13:57 IST
Karan M Tejwani

Karan Tejwani is a student and a Manchester United supporter. He loves writing about the beautiful game of football and is a former scorer of the extraordinary when on the pitch