Tottenham star Harry Kane may well be two goals ahead of his nearest competitor in the Golden Boot race, but this World Cup has hardly been a goalscoring masterclass from a striker who many view as the best in the world right now. From Kane’s six strikes, excluding penalty shootouts, half have been from the spot, while the remaining three were a rebound, a headed finish to a Harry Maguire flick-on and an inadvertent deflection of a wayward Ruben Loftus-Cheek shot.
In some ways, then, Kane’s scoring record at Russia 2018 has flattered to deceive; he’s been someway short of the relentless goalscoring force that has driven on Tottenham’s impressive progress over the last four seasons, and he’s not been a talismanic threat in the same way Cristiano Ronaldo was for Portugal in the Group Stages or Kylian Mbappe was for France against Argentina.
But that’s not to say Kane hasn’t been effective for England in other ways. In fact, with two attacking midfielders in Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard roaming around him and Raheem Sterling popping up in various gaps across the opposition defence, Kane has played this World Cup as the most traditional of No.9s – one who brings his team up the pitch by protecting the ball, and creates space for team mates to burst into.
England’s shootout win over Colombia provides the perfect example. On the one hand, Kane’s penalty in normal time was one of just three shots on goal he managed over the course of 120 minutes despite England dominating pretty much the whole game barring a turbulent 20 minutes that saw them concede to Yerry Mina and flail around shell-shocked for the first half of extra time.
On the other though, Kane was the most integral of components when it came to getting England into dangerous areas. He won eleven aerial duels, a return only trumped throughout both teams by Harry Maguire, and drew the most fouls of any player on the pitch with an incredible nine – the vast majority of which were won through intricate dribbles in the tightest of areas – including the penalty to open England’s account when he was yet again hauled to the turf at a corner.
On another day against different opposition, that alone could have been enough to win England the match. They’re still joint-top of the World Cup’s charts for goals from set pieces, and the Three Lions went close on a number of occasions but just couldn’t find the same potency that marked their wins over Tunisia and Panama.
But in many ways, the manner in which Kane managed to influence the match despite struggling to bring his roaring goalscoring form to this World Cup highlights how special, mature and adaptable a talent the Tottenham star truly is.
If the 24-year-old can find a way to start scoring in open play as well within the confines of this England team, there’s no reason the World Cup can’t come home this summer.