Kane blunt in attack as England’s soaring hopes doused in uninspiring display

    The soaring hopes of a rampaging England bludgeoning every opposition in this World Cup were tempered down on Friday after a goalless stalemate against the USA. The 6-2 opening game triumph over Iran, had soared the expectations of the country’s boisterous fans a little too high, but the uninspired display at the Al Bayt Stadium left them a little dispirited. 

    England still sits atop the Group B points table and a positive result against neighbour and foe Wales from the last league game should comfortably see them through, but a return of zero goals from skipper and points-man Harry Kane has further raised Gareth Southgate’s eyebrows.  A knock in the ankles had cast doubts about his participation, but the captain was here to lead his team into another battle.   

    The Tottenham No. 9, though, was largely listless, going for 15 first half minutes without seeing the ball as the game meandered around him. His movements were laboured, touches not clever and England just had five attempts on goal (two on target), failing to create moments of danger inside the USA box with just 14 final third entries down the middle. His effort in the 10th minute was blocked by Walter Zimmerman and another chance came his way at the very end, but Kane’s header from a Luke Shaw freekick was nowhere near the target. Against Iran, too, Kane had 19 touches with just one inside the opposition box – a statistics not too flattering for the team’s leader and the strike spearhead.

    Southgate, though, gamely defended his captain. “I thought Harry’s hold up play and the headers that he won and his defending in our box was still crucial for the team. So as is often the way with him, there are other elements to his game rather than the goals that are so important for us,” the England manager said. 

    The England captain – playing centrally – did well to hold on to the balls that came his way, but the lay-offs and passes wide to open space and help Raheem Sterling and Bukyo Saka to exploit those gaps were largely absent. 

    Kane travelled to the World Cup with 12 goals from 15 Premier League games, but the controversy surrounding him wearing and then not wearing the ‘rainbow armband’ has been a distraction both for him and the team. “It was a big game (against Iran) and though we won comfortably the other day, physically it was a demanding game and emotionally too a big game – the first in a World Cup,” Southgate said. 

    England will need Kane to find his range as the knockouts first approaches, the striker got his first goal only in the pre-quarterfinals against Germany in the postponed EURO 2020 last year and then scored two more as England reached the final. A similar return would make the fans of the Three Lions equally happy. 

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