Raheem Sterling has reportedly been handed a morale-boosting phone call from Pep Guardiola, but it looks increasingly likely Harry Kane will be the man to shoulder England’s scoring burden against Iceland.
Sterling has had a difficult time at Euro 2016, starting the first two group matches but repeatedly causing frustration with his end product.
That has not gone unnoticed by the travelling England fans, with Sterling dubbing himself ‘the Hated One’ on Instagram following the 1-1 draw with Russia and being audibly jeered from the stands before being withdrawn at half-time against Wales.
It was reported on Friday night that incoming Manchester City boss Guardiola reached out to the 21-year-old to lift his spirits, but that intervention seems unlikely to help him back into the starting XI for Monday’s last-16 clash in Nice.
Instead, manager Roy Hodgson is thought to be favouring a recall for Barclays Premier League golden boot winner Kane, goalless in 150 minutes at his first senior tournament.
The centre forward arrived in France as first-choice number nine but, like Sterling, made way at the interval against Wales and watched Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win.
The latter duo were given a chance to cement their partnership against Slovakia but drew a collective blank, and it was Kane who faced the media on Friday.
He swept aside suggestions of burnout – hardly unreasonable given he has now played 63 matches since the start of 2015/16 and also went to last summer’s Under-21 European Championships – and declared himself ready to lead the line.
“I feel 100% fresh, I feel sharp, I feel ready, so if called upon I’ll be going out there and giving 110 per cent,” he said.
“I’ve had it before, a lot of people spoke last year when it was the Under-21s at the Euros. People said the same things then. I’m not tired.
“As a striker I want to score every game; I want to score two in every game.
“But it doesn’t always work like that. I’ll keep my confidence up and, if I’m playing on Monday, I’ll do my best to score and my best for the team, creating chances for others.
“I want to score goals, I want to win football matches. Hopefully, if called upon on Monday, I can do that, get on the scoresheet and win the game.”
Hodgson has mixed and matched his plentiful attacking options so far, with only Liverpool’s Adam Lallana starting all three matches in a forward position.
He was pictured with strapping around his right ankle after a closed training session, raising questions over his fitness to face Iceland but England have been known to wrap and ice minor knocks too.
Chris Smalling was seen with similar bandaging on his knee on the verge of tournament but was never in any risk of missing a match.
England will continue preparations for Iceland at their Chantilly base on Saturday in another closed session, before flying Nice on the eve of the match where Hodgson will make his usual pre-match address.