For Harry Kane, the stars appear to be aligning. Out of touch during the early part of Euro 2020, he has found his groove to the extent that another Golden Boot will be among the prizes at stake for him when he leads out England in the Wembley final with Italy on Sunday.
Unable to buy a break during the group phase, the captain can now reflect on having caught one of the biggest of them all when he fluffed his extra-time penalty in the semi-final against Denmark only to see the goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, fumble the ball back to him. Kane lashed home the rebound to win it and take him to four goals for the tournament, one behind Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick of the Czech Republic.
Is destiny at work? Kane is not the kind of person to trust in anything he cannot control. He is all about the hard work, the processes, the repetitions on the training ground. But as he considers the fourth major final of his career – the other three have been with Tottenham, each ending in defeat – he can feel a freedom that has not always been evident; certainly not in the previous two.
Before the Champions League final in 2019 against Liverpool and the Carabao Cup final of this past domestic season against Manchester City, Kane was engaged in battles to recover from ankle injuries. He did so but, against Liverpool in particular, he would be some distance off the pace. Kane’s other final was in the 2015 Capital One Cup against Chelsea.
Gareth Southgate has one fitness issue, with Phil Foden set to miss out with a foot problem that he felt after Friday’s training session, but the manager is expected to stick with the starting lineup from the Denmark game. He can be happy that Kane is firing on all cylinders and has grown into the tournament as the striker always hoped he would. The turning point for Kane came when he scored late on in the last-16 win over Germany. He got two more in the quarter-final against Ukraine.
“I have played three finals and two of them … it wasn’t a rush … but I picked up a couple of injuries before the game so your focus is more on getting fit than maybe on the final itself,” Kane said. “It’s nice to be back in this final free in the mind and coming off scoring for a few games in a row. I feel confident, I feel good and I feel like the team is in a real good place.”
Kane is driven by the desire to win a first piece of personal silverware and, when he lines up against the Italy captain, Giorgio Chiellini, he will be reminded of heartbreak – together with a slight. After Chiellini’s Juventus had come from behind to knock Kane and Spurs out of the Champions League in 2018, the centre-half criticised the London club’s mentality. “It’s the history of Tottenham,” Chiellini said. “They miss always something to arrive at the end.”
Kane said he remembered those words but, as usual, his focus was on the challenge at hand. “Look, he’s a respected footballer, a fantastic player, so I’m looking forward to another battle,” Kane said. “It isn’t just me versus Chiellini. It’s about us doing what we have done as a group over the last four or five years, being calm and being ruthless in moments as well.”
It was put to Kane that he stood to become only the second England player to score a goal in a triumphant major final – after Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup against West Germany.
“As a striker, it is always the moment you dream of,” Kane said. “Sir Geoff has an amazing moment in history. These occasions are there for you to grab – you have the opportunity to create your own history. We reconnected with our fans at the 2018 World Cup and this tournament was about going one step further and trying to win it. We feel like we can beat any team we play so it’s about executing under pressure, which we’ve done so far.”