Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown thinks England captain Harry Kane will be “struggling to breathe until he gets a goal” at the World Cup.
Kane has faced some criticism so far this tournament for dropping too deep when England need him in and around the box.
The Tottenham striker – who has scored 12 in 15 Premier League matches this season – is yet to get on the scoresheet for England in Qatar but has contributed three assists in three matches.
On whether it matters that Kane hasn’t scored yet, Keown told the Daily Mail: “It will matter to Harry, though. Goals are like oxygen for Kane. He will be struggling to breathe until he gets a goal. But then this is a movie we have seen before.
“Kane didn’t get a goal in the group stages of Euro 2020. Then he scored against Germany in the last 16, Ukraine in the quarters and Denmark in the semis.
“Sometimes I’d like to see Kane stay higher up the pitch. But it isn’t as if England’s striker has not been contributing. Some of his assists have been reminiscent of David Beckham. That low cross for Foden was sublime.”
Fellow pundit Chris Sutton added: “As was the cross for Sterling against Iran, and his set-up for Rashford in the same game. He is essential to England’s play. He is undroppable.”
On how far England could go at the World Cup, Keown replied: “You never want to take your eyes off your next opponent and this is a tough Senegal side. But we both said the same in our pre-World Cup predictions, Chris, that England would get to the quarter-finals, where we would potentially meet the holders France. That may now happen.
“If so, that could turn into the game of the tournament. I fear the French will ultimately prove too strong for us in the quarters. But like I said at the start of the World Cup, I hope I’m wrong.”
Before Sutton had his say: “I’m scared to look beyond Senegal, Martin. If we have learned one thing from Saudi Arabia, Japan and Morocco, it is that there are no gimmes at this World Cup. England are favourites to beat Senegal, especially as they are missing Sadio Mane, but teams have loved making a mockery of the odds in Qatar.
“I predicted England would reach the quarter-finals and then for our coats as we head home. But before a potential super showdown with France, we have got to get beyond Senegal first.”
England have played with four at the back so far this tournament and both Keown and Sutton reckon England boss Gareth Southgate will stick with that against Senegal at the weekend.
Keown said: “I cannot see Southgate changing systems for Senegal. If we are building towards a quarter-final with France, then [Kyle] Walker needs to start at right back. Kylian Mbappe — possibly the fastest man at this World Cup — would be his likely opponent and we want more vital minutes for Walker.”
Sutton agrees about Walker, he added: “Back four, for sure, and I would use Walker too. Senegal’s biggest threat is Ismaila Sarr. In those one-v-one situations, who would you back to stop the skilful Watford winger? I would say Walker is better at that. The only downside is you lose that set-piece delivery which comes with Kieran Trippier.”
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