If Kane is able England can make a run at EURO 2016

Regardless of the final result at the Stade Vélodrome, that was an impressive start to EURO 2016 by England. They did everything right.


Source: Getty Images

Well, almost.

Vasili Berezutski’s brilliant last-gasp header spoiled an otherwise excellent outing by Roy Hodgson’s side in Marseille.

It will be hard for England fans to feel too happy in the aftermath, knowing just how tight Group B promises to be now that Wales - who played like their lives depended on it against Slovakia - have snatched the group lead.

But they ought to be. There’s a lot to like about what England produced, especially in that excellent opening period against a Russian side many thought are good things to advance.

You’d almost say it was un-England-like. The Three Lions have repeatedly looked frozen in tournament play every two years. Disjointed, ill-fitting and riddled by misunderstandings. Not this time.

England are still well short of the big guns but this looks a side that is spirited, enterprising and attacking. If nothing else, they’ll be fun to watch, and they’ll play football in the style an England team should play.

I dare say it’s just not in England’s DNA to play the way Germany or Spain do but that doesn’t mean they can’t be highly effective if they get the balance right.

Cutting out the defensive errors is key and the new role of Wayne Rooney means England will probably have more of the ball than in the past. It might even take the heat off the back four, as it did against Russia.

Excitingly, there’s three genuine risk-takers in the front third - Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli, all of who play direct, fearless football.

That isn’t necessarily the kind of football that wins major tournaments. We know that the most methodical and clinical teams usually succeed.

But that’s where Harry Kane needs to come into his own against Wales and Slovakia and whoever England play after that, if they are to progress further.

His battle with Sergei Ignashevich, a veteran who turns 37 next month, was the one critical duel where Russia at least broke even.

Kane ended up drifting away from goal to pick up the ball, usually out to the left. His job isn’t to get the ball there. It’s to operate centrally. Not just to finish chances but to hold up the play and link the forwards around him.

The Spurs man did his share of work but it wasn’t where England required it. They needed him to get on the end of everything that aforementioned trio are creating on the line behind.

Russia squeezed England through the middle of the park and forced them wide, which they didn’t seem to mind, delivering plentiful balls into the box.

Plenty of times an England player was in the vicinity but, just as often, it wasn’t Kane. And the one time he did find himself putting the ball in the net, he was offside.

Furthermore, it also seems odd that Kane is the designated corner taker. Actually, scrap that. . It would be fine if indeed Kane was the best crosser of a ball in the England team, but he’s not.

Surely Rooney, so adept at manipulating the ball, would be a better fit. Adam Lallana, another player of technical quality, is another capable option.

It’s only a small issue but if England are to make a dent in France, it’s these little issues that will make the difference. Heaven knows England have been let down by them in the past.

It was a decent start, a promising start. The hard work is still to come.

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4 min read
Published 12 June 2016 at 2:40pm
By Sebastian Hassett
Source: SBS