With Harry Kane, it's always something
Background Photo: Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0
Harry Kane has issues with multitasking. Until this season, he had never scored a Premier League goal in August. He was fine for other competitions. Just the Premier League. Finally, he broke through with a 78th-minute finish on the counterattack that put the match to bed against still-hopeful Fulham.
In hindsight, one might think Harry Kane scoring against his team in August was an omen to Cottagers owner Shad Khan that he'd brought the wrong manager to the top-flight dance. He had but Kane's strike wasn't Slavisa Jokanovic's fault. The Spurs talisman proved as much in the next match, scoring again in a systematic dismantling of Manchester United.
He's gone on to score six to date in the league campaign, fourth overall behind Sergio Aguero, Eden Hazard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and level with seven other stars. Another four came in the Champions League. For all that, he still hasn't quite figured out the multitasking thing.
After clinching the World Cup Golden Boot with a goal against Colombia in the tournament's Round of 16, Harry Kane became an international man of mystery. England's No.10 and manager Gareth Southgate must now discover the reason his scoring touch disappears when he pulls on an England shirt.
In part, it's because the Three Lions haven't been drawing penalties since leaving Russia. Half of Kane's goals in the competition came from the spot. Yet, the marksman doesn't usually score 50% of his goals courtesy the referee's whistle. Only two of his ten this campaign relied on the man in black's generosity. Of the remaining eight, two were struck with either foot and four headed. The reason he hasn't scored in his last seven international appearances lies elsewhere.
Many athletes are superstitious. When they're hot, they don't change their socks or refuse to launder their kit. When their form dips, they change everything, trying to find something that jumpstarts their mojo. Such an opportunity presented itself on Friday when England played the United States in a friendly tune-up for this week's Nations League clash with World Cup semi-final opponents Croatia. The match doubled as an international testimonial for former captain Wayne Rooney. The squad insisted he don the No.10 for his final match in England colours. Kane took the No.12 for the evening. He never saw action, though, so we'll never know if a new number would have brought fresh luck.
As mentioned, Harry won the World Cup Golden Boot to complement the matching pair he has from the Premier League. Meanwhile, Croatia midfielder Luka Modric won everything else. He claimed the World Cup Golden Ball, UEFA's Player of the Year and the rebranded Ballon d'Or now called FIFA's Best. The wiry little playmaker broke down after losing the final to France whereupon he received yet another award: a warm hug from Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. The embrace eventually had a trickle-down effect, with perjury charges for allegedly offering false testimony in a tax-fraud case against a former coach thrown out by the Croatian court in early October.
As with Kane, however, all wasn't perfect. Modric didn't follow former Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo to Italy despite the transfer rumour mill grinding out bushels of grist that he was bound for Inter Milan. He stuck it out at the Bernabeu while the team struggled under Julen Lopetegui. The Merengues appear to be on the mend under Santiago Solari but it would be foolhardy to suggest that Kane's struggles also resulted from his manager, not after Gareth Southgate took the Three Lions to the World Cup's final four and brought football home again in spirit at least.
Whatever the cause, whichever number he wears, the Spurs man must show up for his manager if England is to exact any revenge in the Nations League for their ouster in Russia. Their first attempt ended in a goalless draw behind closed doors at the Stadion HNK in October. Wembley offers a better opportunity with strong support from a paying home crowd rather than the crickets who occupied the vacated seats in Rijecka.
The visitors will be without Ivan Rakitic, the Jeeves to Modric's Bertie Wooster in the Croatian midfield. England won't be able to focus more on the Real Madrid playmaker if Zlatko Dalic throws Chelsea loanee Mateo Kovacic into the fray, however. The Three Lions must mount as dangerous an attack as their opponents to come away with all three points and leapfrog Spain as Group 4 champions, still in with a shout to be inaugural Nations League winners. That requires Harry Kane to be in form and on task.