London (AFP) – Harry Kane’s lacklustre form at Euro 2020 has left Gareth Southgate facing a selection dilemma as England look to bounce back from their limp 0-0 draw against Scotland on Friday.
Southgate’s side missed a chance to book their place in the last 16 as they were frustrated by a determined Scotland side who could easily have beaten their old rivals for the first time since 1999.
England managed just one shot on target at Wembley and it was that lack of cutting edge which convinced Southgate to replace Kane with Marcus Rashford 15 minutes from full-time.
The change made no difference as England were forced to settle for a point that stalled the momentum after a 1-0 against Croatia in their opening game on Sunday.
England can still qualify for the knockout stages if they avoid defeat in their last Group D match against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
But it is Kane’s tepid contributions that will be giving Southgate cause for concern with England’s goal of winning the tournament in mind.
Tottenham striker Kane went into the European Championship having just won the Premier League Golden Boot with 23 goals.
But England’s captain has been unable to replicate the prolific form that saw him finish as top scorer at the 2018 World Cup.
Kane has looked sluggish inside the penalty area and uninspired outside it.
The creativity and predatory finishing that made him a transfer target for Premier League champions Manchester City have suddenly disappeared.
Southgate conceded England’s struggles against a well-drilled, combative Scotland team had forced him to look for an alternative to Kane, who only touched the ball once in the penalty area in the first half.
“We needed more runs in behind. I felt Marcus Rashford would give us that energy. At that point we had got to try and get the goal,” Southgate said.
“We have to make these decisions based on what we see. We’re still working on those patterns.
“We’re playing a high level of games under the intensity and to find space tonight was difficult. Scotland played well and we weren’t able to open them up.”
– ‘Make the right decisions’ –
Isolated by Scotland’s clever game-plan, Kane received minimal support from Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Mason Mount.
Jack Grealish’s introduction off the bench gave England more energy and Kane would surely relish the chance to feed off the Aston Villa playmaker.
“I think the whole team, we have got to look at the whole performance and our use of the ball and review where we can be better,” Southgate said when asked about Kane.
“That’s right across the board, so it’s not just about one person. Scotland, I thought, marked him extremely well.”
Whether the England manager will opt to replace Kane with Rashford or Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin for the crucial Czech clash is another matter entirely.
Dropping a player with 34 England goals would be a hugely brave call.
Asked if he would make changes for the Czech game, Southgate said: “We will see how everyone is, prepare for a different type of opponent and make the right decisions.”
Kane had also been hauled off in the final minutes against Croatia after failing to trouble the visitors.
The 27-year-old took his second successive substitution on the chin, saying: “It’s part of the game. The manager felt that was the right decision so you just have to take it. It is what it is.
“It was a tough game. Scotland defended really well. We know no game is going to be easy it’s a European Championship and Scotland are playing for their lives.”
England midfielder Declan Rice offered a glimmer of hope as he insisted Kane will thrive once he gets better service.
“Scotland nailed their game-plan and nullified Harry Kane. He is a world class player and we need to get the ball to him to score,” Rice said.
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