'Kane as good as anybody I've worked with': Southgate full of praise for striker

In-form England striker Harry Kane is as good a finisher as anybody Gareth Southgate has ever worked with.

With World Cup qualification secured with a game to spare, Sunday’s trip to Lithuania offered the chance to entertain and make amends for a poor display against Slovenia on Thursday.

Kane’s late goal gave England an underwhelming 1-0 win in that Wembley encounter and Sunday’s trip to Vilnius saw the same scorer secure the same result, despite the side ranked 120th in the world threatening to give the experimental visitors a bloody nose.

The 24-year-old’s first-half penalty proved enough to end Group F with victory in the Baltics – the striker’s 15th goal in his last 10 matches for club and country.

“It’s a fantastic record and his finishing quality is top – as good as anybody I’ve played with or worked with,” former England defender Southgate said.

“I’m never in any doubt that when he has a good opportunity, that it’s going to be on target and that there’s a fair chance he scores. We’re fortunate to have him.

“But I also think the likes of (Marcus) Rashford, at 19, just need a bit more time to come to the fore.”

It was another impressive performance in the captain’s armband by Kane, who has scored on each of the four occasions he has led the country out.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s led, both in terms of leading by example on the pitch with his performances, but also as he is with the group,” Southgate said.

“I know everybody wants me to get a shift on, but, again, I want to give myself time because what else would you write for the next couple of months if I did it?”

Now preparations for the World Cup go up a notch, with Germany and Brazil next month arriving at Wembley for friendlies – matches when England will need to be far better than they were in Lithuania.

“Well, pleased with some aspects of it,” Southgate said, having handed Harry Winks, Harry Maguire and Aaron Cresswell their first England starts.

“We obviously gave three full debuts and an opportunity to some players that we wanted to see. I think that also kept the motivation of the team high. There were enough players with a point to prove.

“In many aspects we moved the ball quite well. I was very pleased with Harry Winks in that respect.

“For me, one of the big things when you play for England isn’t necessarily the opposition, it’s whether you can handle wearing an England shirt.

“I thought he did that in a really accomplished way. Looked confident, looked composed, tried to play forward when he could, so that was a real positive.

“We just lacked a bit of quality around the final third and it has been a familiar theme in this qualification campaign, really.

“The challenge is you play a packed defence who don’t even come out at 1-0 down. We have to find a way to combat that.

“Today, again, we didn’t manage to do that. I think it was right to look at the front three that we did and I think those three and the likes of (Raheem) Sterling, (Adam) Lallana, (Jesse) Lingard, (Jamie) Vardy, we have got some good attacking players and feel we will score goals.”

Source: PA


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