The 2018 World Cup had been a great run for England so far, as it made it to the semi-finals. It may seem like a huge surprise for everyone, but the Three Lions’ success can be traced back before the World Cup even started.
Gareth Southgate’s preparations and picks had been well-thought out, together with the game plans he chose to implement. Unpredictability is the name of the game for the Englishmen, but frankly speaking, most of their credits can be attributed to one player — Harry Kane.
Their decisive victory against Sweden sealed the deal for what is to come. It was a 2-0 game in favor of Southgate’s men, with Harry Maguire scoring one at the 30th minute and Dele Alli at the 58th
Kane lied low during that game, at the scoring aspect, though, but his presence in the field sure had boosted the players’ desire to dominate.
In a recent interview, the England captain said that teamwork is what drives them to succeed in their campaign. However, that teamwork is more than just the cooperation of every member of the team.
Kane specifically said that their teamwork is rooted in their brotherhood. And it’s this brotherhood that sets them up for greater accomplishments.
Harry Kane and his spectacular World Cup run
Kane is the leading scorer of the tournament having made six goals in four matches. With this, it’s safe to say that the 24-year-old has what it takes to lead England to another trophy.
And if ever they make it all the way, it’ll be the first time that they reached the World Cup semi-final since the Italy 1990.
Never before had the English squad have so much potential since Kane’s arrival. What makes this even more promising is that Kane is performing so great even though he lacks experience, knowing that he’s fairly young to be a captain.
The striker knows how to carry his skills in the field, as what most sports analysts would say. It’s this balance of composure and focus that brings him to greater heights every single time he played in Russia.
However, this isn't the only set of games that Kane dominated as he also brought Arsenal to the verge of Premier League domination. Though the Gunners might have finished third, that is already a huge accomplishment for them knowing that they overtook powerhouses Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal.
Then again, it’s not all about Kane’s superb attributes, but his success in the World Cup also has a lot to do with his mates.
Kane stated in an interview that they are like family on the team. This showed how close the players were to each other, and it's this closeness that made them know each other's style of player very well.
And knowing each other that good enables them to sync well with one another and know what move to expect throughout their every game. It’s like having the capability to read the next move, which brought them one step closer to claiming the title.
It’s their togetherness and deep connection with one another that they’re able to perform at their best.
In fact, Kane stated that they treat each other like brothers and that they do anything just to help each other. Their three consecutive defeats might have been a slump for them, but it motivated them to change and do better, of course, with the help of the 24-year-old striker.
Kane scored one goal in normal time and another in the shootout, breaking them free from their three-consecutive game losses.
But what’s even better about this accomplishment is that England managed to win even though Colombia was alleged to play dirty. John Stones, defender for England, is one of the people who laid testament to Colombia’s unorthodox game style.
He even stated that the Colombians were one of the dirtiest players he had faced throughout his entire career. Kane supported Stones’ statement by saying that experiencing a game like the one they had against Colombia boosted their confidence even more.
That might be the reason why they easily defeated the Swedes five days after.
The Spur striker continued saying that it made them feel hungrier than ever to get more wins and to eventually make it to the final. He even said that even if it means going to extra time and penalties, then he, together with the team, would happily welcome it as they’re sure they’re going to dominate.
Now, England will face Croatia next after they successfully defeated Sweden.
In addition, England’s numerous experiences in defeating strong teams this World Cup is another factor why their momentum is at its best. Kane stated that this fact is what makes them stronger.
Indeed, the Englishmen’s strong dedication and hard work bore fruit during their last two games. The team’s chemistry was at its finest, the players were well-coordinated, and there was a balance of offensive and defensive strength in all sides.
In another interview, Kane said that it was fulfilling to see how happy and proud their fans were, especially that they were doing it for the pride of their country. This makes perfect sense especially that England had a hard time making a statement in the previous World Cups.
Even the team's odds to make it out of the Round of 16 was very low, for anyone to even consider having them in the semi-finals. But then again, here they are, hungrier than ever to snatch this year's title.
Indeed, seeing the Englishmen back on track is a great feeling especially for their fellow countrymen at home.
Support from their fans back in England is what enables them to drive their game even further, Kane added. It’s all about getting the right motivation that enables them to defy the odds and better their performance game after game.
As what they say, you'll never excel if you keep on believing that you can't. In this case, they believed they could, and so, they made it to the semi-finals. Then again, this boils down to how long will the support continue.
The main point of all that Kane’s doing is to help the team in all the ways that he possibly could, with his ability to help backed by a 6-goal tally, which is enough to make him grab the Golden Boot, which is something that would not have been sufficient in 1974.
This was the time when Ronaldo managed to score a total of 8 goals collectively in Japan and Korea way back 2002. He does not make any regards on whether he would be with the ball or not, or get to score a goal, or at the very least, be able to assist — all that matters to him is helping the team and focusing on doing so.
The excellent support team which has allowed for the proliferation of great ideas, and of course, of great advice allowed Southgate to feel at ease, and gain even more trust for his players, in a statement directly released to the Daily Podcast of the World Cup.
This great set of people surrounding the team has allowed for a great set-up as well, and all this success that they’re getting is all a result of team efforts, given that a group this huge would be difficult to handle single-handedly.
He tries to leave the limelight now and then, but at the moment he is back to running, making sure that he gets time to recuperate and thus be in the best physical condition to be able to lead the entire pack.
Southgate is proud to say that their playing style has greatly improved over the past year, as he is quick to note that they are making significant leaps of progress. He also adds that the only fitness concern on England’s side is Jamie Vardy.
Keeping it clean for this year’s World Cup is something that he is trying his best to do.
He considers the world cup as a great test for the team, and thus a great way for them to learn better ways of dealing with the ball. They're seeking to constantly improve and are taking this World Cup as an opportunity to do so.
Not being able to maintain the clean sheet is for sure a disappointment, with the gravity and significance of getting into a tournament as big as the World Cup being really big, which can be better appreciated once you go further into it.
What’s at stake: the Golden Boot
The Golden Boot of the world cup is something that’s now in Kane’s midst. This comes after his exemplary record of 108 goals, and top-flight games that has reached a whopping 153, effectively making him the top-scorer of the Premier League, not just once, but twice.
While the Golden Boot is indeed, a huge prize, he has somehow managed to make himself get used to being given awards for his exemplary record. His early career proved to be a promising one, with him able to get three touches in 79 seconds during his starter in the match versus Lithuania on March of 2015.
The last-16 victory versus Colombia allowed him to get to six goals for the whole tournament, with the nearest challengers being Kylian Mbappe of France and Romely Lukaku of Belgium, with three clears and two clears, respectively.
The process got him to match the record of Gary Lineker regarding the number of goals in a single tournament way back 1986. He has effectively become the first Englishman to get a score in as many as six international matches, with the record being unmatched since 1939, with Tommy Lawton being the last person to do so.
Croatia is scheduled to be in Wednesday's semis, and thus things may not be over yet with Kane. BBC Sport is now looking at how he is going to bode with the rest, determining on whether or not Golden Boot would be getting close to Kane, as close as it did 32 years back with Lineker.
Training with the rubber chicken
One of the unusual ways which the team trains with Gareth Southgate is with the use of a rubber chicken, which serves as a training aid for the team. The chickens, each with either a weird blue or red hue, is believed to help maintain the player’s morale, as well as warm them up at the training base in Repino.
Each player gets a toy chicken, which gets passed to fellow team-mates, with the ultimate aim of moving the said chicken to a position in which it could be tagged as someone from the opposing team.
It's usually thrown in the early rounds of training and is used in their preparations versus Croatia, the results of which, are sure to be crucial, and if the odds in their favor, will be making history for the team.
Luckily, more than just the Rubber Chickens, they have support coming from fans and the ’66 team that boosts their morale as well.
Boost of confidence from all sides
Gary Linekey was seen in tears while looking back at the last time that England has managed to make it to the last four teams standing in any World Cup match. The last time it’s happened was in 1966, and the thought of looking back at it inspires him so much.
He admits that all of team England is readier than ever, all excited as they can be to take the same path as the players of '66 did. The captain has his eyes on the prize, outdo the performance of Italia 1990 semi-finalists, as well as a win against Croatia, and ultimately, get to the final on Sunday.
It was in March when Kane met Sir Geoff Hurst, one of the heroes of 1966, which offers a great deal of confidence and inspiration on his part, as the one who is leading the whole pack.
He has managed to meet the said hero more than once, with the March meet-up taking place as a result of him doing filming at the training ground of Tottenham.
He further adds that he is proud to have made the players of the day proud as well, as it's a way of reminiscing the good times for them, as well as for Gary who made it to the semis back in his day. On top of all this, he wanted to create his dent in England football history.
Kane states that he feels proud to have made the fans proud as well, which is exactly what they wanted to do all along as they’re playing the sport. He is believed to create an impact on the fans of the team as much as the players themselves, with team ’66 rallying behind them throughout all these weeks that the World Cup has been on.
He adds that the team wanted to work and play with a passion, a great passion for the sport, and he is happy to say that they have been doing so all this time. It's the fans that give them the courage to try every single time and keep on doing what they do.
Their recent matches have seen them getting closer than ever to their largest game yet as football professionals.
All the love and support that Kane from fans from all over the country has been getting as the team’s coach is a far cry from the flak he has received during the last season at Stoke, as a result of controversy about the effort that he has been awarded.
Once the match is up, he plans to spend time with his fiancée Katie, who is pregnant at the moment. Apart from the fans and family, his Fiancee herself is proud of what the team has achieved, and he says that she feels bad for not being able to be with him in this very special moment in his career.
They could only hope for the best, that they can finish as strongly as they could, and that win or lose, whether they make it past the next step or not, they would end on the strong note.
He feels happy about being a professional and being a player having a job at the same time, and whether on or off the pitch, getting to motivate people, especially young children who watch the tournaments.
He remains gobsmacked to this day, knowing that as a kid, he watched the matches wanting to be in the English team, and here he is now being the team’s leader. He further adds that he can assure of his family being proud of it.
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