Harry Kane raised plenty of eyebrows on Tuesday as the newly announced captain of the English national team had the following to say in a press conference.
“It’s impossible not to dream about lifting the World Cup. It’s the biggest competition in the world,” Kane said. “I believe we can win it – anyone can. I cannot sit here and say we are not going to win it because we could do. We are not favourites but you look at this season, no-one would have thought Liverpool getting to the Champions League final. You look at Manchester United back in the Sir Alex Ferguson days, they had a young team and dominated the Premier League for years to come.
“Being young is not an excuse – it could be a good thing. I believe we can and that is what we want to try and do. Anything else is not good enough.”
And just like that, England’s new skipper appeared to set the bar ridiculously too high once again ahead of a major tournament.
Compare Kane’s comments to that of England captain Steven Gerrard ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“Anyone who thinks we can’t win the World Cup has to be barking up the wrong tree,” Gerrard said, before England crashed out at the group stage four years ago…
Are England going to win the World Cup this summer? Probs not. Kane, and his manager, likely know that but what’s the point of having a negative mindset from the get-go? True, it hasn’t helped England in the past but this is a fresher, younger squad than in previous campaigns and there is a real sense of optimism building that Kane and Co. are flying under the radar.
The Three Lions have a chance of reaching the last eight, and even the semifinals if the draw is kind to them, and then, I guess, they’ll have a fighting chance. Germany, Spain, France, Brazil, Argentina and Belgium are still the clear favorites.
Still, Kane’s comments will no doubt be scoffed at and dismissed as nonsense by England fans and neutrals across the globe. Yet there is a growing sense that this is the strongest unit the English national team has had over the past decade with individual sentiments put to one side and Southgate fostering a team-first approach.
His selections for the final 23-man squad were based on sensibility and picking players who were in form, and fit, heading into this summer. So often the English national team has been about massaging big egos (Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, John Terry) and trying to fit square pegs in round holes come tournament time.
That’s no longer the case. With a humble, hard-working and talismanic figure such as Kane leading the line, and their charge, this summer, you get the sense that England will end up surprising many in Russia.
They won’t win the World Cup but they could win plenty of hearts for a brave style of play in a 3-4-3 formation and the likes of Kane, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford excelling on the biggest stage.
Kane’s optimism is encouraging but unless England get out Group G (they face Tunisia, Panama and Belgium) comfortably, the negativity won’t take too long to take over the mood in the England camp.
That’s the way it always works for England as stars from the Premier League are put on a pedestal after a few decent performances and then knocked off it quickly with one slightly shaky displays. Perhaps the failure of the past two tournaments (knocked out in the last 16 at EURO 2016 by Iceland, plus the group stage exit at the last World Cup) will have toughened up this England squad.
With just five players left over from the Three Lions’ last World Cup exploit in the 2018 squad, this is very much a fresh, young squad looking to write their own history and not be haunted by the ghosts of England’s past.