Harry Kane insisted there is no shortage of pride in the England dressing room after his brace helped the side to a flattering 4-0 scoreline in Malta.
The Tottenham striker’s 53rd-minute opener looked like it would be the only difference between the Three Lions and hosts ranked joint 190th in the world, but three more followed in the final five minutes – a second for Kane and one apiece for Ryan Bertrand and Danny Welbeck.
By then many fans were already underwhelmed by what they had seen, with boos heard from the away end at half-time and typically abrasive critiques lighting up social media.
But while Gareth Southgate’s team may have struggled for inspiration on the night, Kane passionately rejected any suggestion the shirt does not mean enough to the England players, who remain two points clear of Monday’s opposition Slovakia in World Cup qualifying Group F.
“I think that’s a thoroughly unfair statement,” he said. “Every player here is very proud to represent their country.
“There’s a lot of hard work and effort to get where we are. It didn’t happen overnight, it started at a young age and took a lot of hard work and dedication. Anyone who says that doesn’t understand what it takes – that’s probably why they’re sitting at home watching it and we’re out there playing.”
Kane did sympathise with the travelling contingent who were hoping for a more comfortable night at the Ta’ Qali National Stadium, but was not surprised by Malta’s battling performance.
“You can understand their frustration. We’re frustrated on the pitch,” he said.
“But sometimes people underestimate the teams we play. Especially at home they can make it difficult, particularly in the first half when they’re energetic. It’s a big scalp to try to get a result against England.
“We stayed patient and we knew at half-time if we kept moving the ball, because it was hot out there, they’d tire. When we got those chances to be clinical, that’s what we did.”
Kane has just emerged from another goalless August with Spurs but was always confident of getting back in the hunt and has now hit the target 10 times in 20 international appearances, including five times in his last three caps.
“As a striker you seem to go through (lean) spells – mine always seems to be the same month,” he said. “I knew it was September 1 and if I got a couple of chances I’d put them away.”
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