Harry Kane is ready to start England’s second World Cup game against the United States and is better than he has ever been, according to manager Gareth Southgate.
On the eve of England’s match against the USA, which could clinch their place in the last-16, Southgate confirmed that Kane is fit to start and all-but confirmed his selection.
Southgate also agreed with the assessment of Tottenham Hotspur head coach Antonio Conte, who said Kane is in the best physical and mental shape of his career.
On the subject of whether or not Kane is ok to start against the USA, Southgate said: “Yeah, absolutely. He’s good, he’s worked and good for the game. We just checked him out just to see. I think sometimes when you’re treating things it is important to know exactly what is there and that was all good. It would be a brave decision to leave him out of the starting line-up."
Following Tottenham’s last game before the World Cup break, Conte said: “Now he is arriving to play at the World Cup with great enthusiasm, in good physical condition, stronger mentally than before. I see a player that is ready. I see in his eyes the desire to be a protagonist in the best competition in the world, in the World Cup.”
Asked if he has seen signs that Kane is in his best-ever shape, Southgate said: “Yeah, he’s in a good space. Definitely.
“We managed him a little bit last week through training because of the load he had had, so I think we’re always conscious of that and we do that with lots of players.
“Some need a little bit more training, some might do half a session, it depends on what their individual load has been. Some of our guys haven’t played as much football and need pushing a bit more at certain times so we’re always individually preparing that. But he (Kane) is in a good space, definitely.”
Although Kane is ready to start against the USA, Southgate reiterated his desire not to put all of the attacking responsibility on the 29-year-old’s shoulders and believes his other forwards are ready to contribute more than they did in the European Championships.
When it was put to Southgate that England are not so reliant on Kane as they had been in the past or had been on the likes of Wayne Rooney, he said: “I guess at the highest level that’s got to be proved yet because he (Kane) is a special player.
“Everybody will focus on his goals, but the quality of his build-up play the other day for Raheem (Sterling) and Marcus Rashford’s goals was exceptional. We’re blessed to have him.
“Equally, what we’ve tried to do from the very start was not put all the onus on the captain, whether that’s media duties, whatever else it might be, spread the load, give people more responsibility. We have now got more depth.
“I see more of our attacking players in a better moment than they were in the Euros perhaps. I know people talked a lot about the depth we had then, but I didn’t see for some of the squad then that they were in a really good moment when you were looking to make changes. There were some, but not all.
“Now, I’m looking at training and it’s at a really good level amongst the group and they’re making my decisions harder. I’m always thinking if there’s an injury to a player ‘well OK who’s the next one in. It’s an opportunity for someone else’.”
Referring back to Kane, Southgate added: “At the same time, I’m not wanting to diminish what Harry brings us because he is a special player. But we would always have to adapt and we’ve got to make sure we’re able to do that.”
Harry Maguire has also been passed fit to start against the USA and trained on Thursday, despite being forced off against Iran.
“With Harry we think an element of that was dehydration,” said Southgate. “Because of the awareness of concussion we’ve checked back through all of that really diligently and Fifa have as well, because it’s one of the key things from their medical department in this tournament. There’s no evidence of that.
“There wasn’t really evidence of that when our medical team went on, but you still want to check that because he was feeling unwell and why was that?”
England hope that James Maddison, who has been managing a knee injury, may be ready to return to training on Saturday.
Southgate confirmed that England made representation to Fifa about the Var inconsistencies in the Iran game, in which his team were not awarded a penalty but their opponents were for similar incidents.
“We put a report in,” said Southgate. “We haven’t heard anything back as yet. There was obviously a penalty given the next afternoon, so whether that was a consequence of our game being reviewed by the referees or not, it’s hard to say. But we haven’t had a response yet.”