Harry Kane is the best finisher in world football and supporters were wrong to doubt him amid his slow Euro 2020 start.
That is the view of former England manager Steve McClaren as Kane prepares to lead the line in Wednesday’s huge semi-final against Denmark on Wednesday.
Kane failed to score in all three group games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic as England made a steady but unspectacular start.
There were questions over whether the 27-year-old should retain his place in the line-up but the Tottenham striker responded with a headed goal against Germany in the last 16 and two more as England thrashed Ukraine 4-0 in the last eight.
Kane, the top scorer at World Cup 2018, has been involved in 27 goals in his last 26 games for England.
He has nine goals at major tournaments, with his second goal against Ukraine meaning he matched the career total scored by Alan Shearer.
Ahead of the Denmark game, Kane is one away from equalling the national record held by Gary Lineker (10).
Reflecting on Kane’s tournament, McClaren told Stats Perform: “Unbelievable.
“Do we not learn the lessons? You know, you have got Shearer and Lineker on the TV and talking their exploits and not scoring for ages coming into squads.
“Terry Venables [kept faith] with Shearer and Bobby Robson did with Lineker, do we not learn from this?
“And you could see from the first games, okay, he’s out of sorts, but he didn’t get the service.
“There were no crosses going into the box, there was no one sliding balls through.
“And to be fair Harry was outside the box the majority of the time but against Ukraine, Germany, he was inside the box.
“When he is inside the box, he is the best finisher in the world at the present moment. So put the ball in the box. Once we do that, he will score without a doubt.”
McClaren believes Kane and Raheem Sterling are the two automatic attacking selections for Gareth Southgate, with a host of options beyond that for the other two spots.
“Reliability, that is the key thing,” McClaren said about Sterling. “He’s always produced for England, why? He’s got the trust of Gareth. Every time he comes in, he plays.
“It’s difficult in a club because there are many, many games and sometimes you’ve been left out or other talent comes in.
“And I think he’s had an up and down season with Man City and in his relationship with Pep Guardiola.
“He’s not the nailed on number one like he is with England and that’s the key thing.
“He’s playing with that freedom and you don’t see players like that in any of the other nations.
“Someone who can beat players, go past players, can score with both feet, with his head now he’s getting into the box. But he can also create like he did for Kane against Ukraine.”
McClaren believes England have fringe players who would be huge stars for most of the other nations at the Euros, talking up the likes of Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden.
He added: “Gareth’s got an embarrassment of riches, he’s got so many players who are so different in those positions.
“Grealish normally in any other team in these championships would be the star man regularly playing every game, Foden would be the star man playing every game, Sancho would be the star man playing every game.
“They are not for England – what a luxury for Gareth.
“Sancho is just one of those talents amongst quite a few that we’ve got. He beats players, he’s quick, strong, direct – he can assist, he can score.
“He is a younger Sterling at the present moment and looking at him in the future, he could be better than him.”
While the attacking options often dominate the public debate, McClaren has been extremely impressed with West Ham’s Declan Rice and Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips in midfield.
“The work-rate, intensity, the amount of interceptions, the tackles that they put in, they have been for me the unsung heroes of the performances so far,” said McClaren.
“We always say if you if you’ve got weak centre backs or you’re not too sure about your centre backs, you always give them protection.
“When you’re a little bit suspect there and you have [Tryone] Mings and [John] Stones and people, and without [Harry] Maguire [for the initial games], he [Southgate] needed that protection.
“They’ve been absolutely fantastic. They’ve protected the back, let them defend well from crosses. And they’ve also provided the front players the freedom to go about their jobs.
“So it’s a thankless task, but they’re doing it so well.”
Of the threat posed by Denmark, he added: “I think the big danger is the momentum that they’re gaining, the emotion from everybody is with Denmark.
“Christian Eriksen with that incident – so pleased for him and his family and for everybody in football that he’s fine and is recovering.
“But I just think they’ve been galvanised by what has happened and if Eriksen is at the game with the Danish squad, that’s an unbelievable boost.
“You can see that something is behind them and that for me is the biggest danger, it is not so much Denmark, the players and the team – it’s the momentum and the sway and the emotion and the euphoria that is propelling that Danish team above what they should be doing.
“When you have a cause like that, it so powerful, a powerful emotion, a powerful incentive to see Eriksen at the game as well.”
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