Gareth Southgate has admitted that Harry Kane felt some discomfort in his right foot during England’s 0-0 draw against the USA, although the head coach has stressed he did not gamble on his captain’s fitness by starting him.
Kane has a long history of ankle problems and he faced an anxious wait after being caught by a bad foul by Morteza Pouraliganji during England’s 6-2 win over Iran last Monday. The striker was given the all clear after going for a scan and took part in full training before starting on Friday night.
However, the 29-year-old forward was unable to make an impact during a tepid stalemate at the Al Bayt Stadium. Kane missed two good chances and Southgate acknowledged that the Tottenham forward experienced some pain when he struck the ball, which was perhaps evident when he failed to take an early opportunity from close range.
“No gamble at all,” Southgate said when asked if it was a risk to play Kane. “He has had a whack to his foot, so there is a tiny bit of discomfort when he is striking the ball but we are not talking about anything that was a risk in any way, shape or form.”
The draw with the USA means Southgate is unlikely to rest Kane against Wales on Tuesday. England will qualify for the last 16 as long as they avoid a heavy defeat by Wales, but they are yet to seal top spot in Group B. Kane will also be desperate to play after failing to score in his first two matches in Qatar.
In an ideal world Southgate would have been able to rest several players against Wales. Competition for Kane’s place comes from Callum Wilson and Marcus Rashford, who played on the right after coming off the bench for Bukayo Saka against the USA, while England need to build the match fitness of Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker. Phillips and Walker have recently returned from injury, but it would be a risk to start them against Wales.
Having named the same starting 11 against Iran and the USA, Southgate will look to freshen his side up in their final group game. “We have got to see where the energy levels are and the best way to approach the game,” Southgate said. “We are in a strong position but we want to win the group. We have still got a bit to do to make sure we qualify.”
Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Rashford will be in contention to start in attack and Jordan Henderson could come into midfield. Henderson, who did an individual indoor session at training on Saturday, impressed after replacing Jude Bellingham, who struggled against the USA.
“We cannot roll Jude for 90 minutes every game,” Southgate said. “We have got to look after him and Hendo has been training really well. Tactically, it was a complicated game in midfield. Jordan’s organisation and intelligence and experience was something we felt that could help us.”
England have been boosted by James Maddison returning to training. The Leicester midfielder has been out with a knee injury and should be on the bench against Wales.
“James hasn’t really trained with the group, so I don’t think he’s likely to be in a position to start but he is more positive and hopefully he will be an option for us,” Southgate said. “We have got to consider whether refreshing certain positions is going to be as important. We have got a good squad and these games are taking a lot out of people.”