Kane: If you want to win, you have to face the best

  • Harry Kane helped guide England to Russia 2018

  • Named a candidate for The Best FIFA Men’s Player this year

  • England No9 “really excited” about first World Cup

The English national team have a fine tradition of producing top quality strikers. These players are characterised by being incredibly difficult to play against, natural finishers and strong in the air.

Names that spring to mind in recent history are Gary Lineker, adidas Golden Boot winner at the 1986 FIFA World Cup™, England’s all-time top goalscorer Wayne Rooney and the English Premier League’s all-time leading marksman Alan Shearer.

England’s latest striking sensation, and a man who has all of those aforementioned characteristics, is Harry Kane. Consistently superb in the English top flight – finishing top scorer in each of the past two seasons – the Tottenham Hotspur man is now widely recognised as the Three Lions’ outstanding player. Indeed, he was the only Englishman on the shortlist for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2017 award.

“I feel that I’ve been improving year by year,” Kane said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “Of course, I’d love to be involved in the shortlists again, who wouldn’t? That’s always the aim, to improve and to be the best, so that’s what I’ll keep trying to do.”

Kane's record so far, versus England's all-time top goalscorers after 23 games Bobby Charlton: 18 goals after 23 games (finished on 49 goals in 106 games) Gary Lineker: 18 goals after 23 games (finished on 48 goals in 80 games) Harry Kane: 12 goals after 23 games Wayne Rooney: 9 goals after 23 games (finished on 53 goals in 119 games)

Kane's national team manager Gareth Southgate will be hoping this desire to be among the world’s elite will rub off on the rest of his squad. England reached Russia 2018 with relative ease, finishing top of their group, eight points clear of nearest challengers Slovakia and Scotland, with their star striker scoring some vital goals – including the late strike against Slovenia that secured qualification. As a result, Kane and Co are in cautiously confident mood ahead of this week’s Final Draw.

“We’re positive, but we’re not getting too ahead of ourselves,” Kane said. “We know we’ve still got a lot of work to do and we’ve got some great friendly games coming up between now and the finals. It’s a great feeling to qualify. It’ll be my first World Cup, I’m really excited about that, so it’s just about focusing on the games ahead and looking forward to the finals.”

3 of Kane’s 5 WCQ goals directly earned England 7 points 10 June 2017: v Scotland, 90+3’ +1 point (equaliser, final score: 2-2) 5 October 2017: v Slovenia, 90+4’ +3 points (winner, final score 1-0) 8 October 2017: v Lithuania, 27’ +3 points (winner, final score 1-0)

Kane revealed that his first World Cup memory was watching David Seaman lobbed by Ronaldinho at the 2002 finals, a tournament at which the current England coach was an unused substitute. Despite Southgate’s involvement in Korea/Japan, it is unlikely those negative memories of the past are brought up too often in team meetings.

Part of the coaching set-up at The Football Association for a number of years, Southgate is forging a reputation for blooding youngsters and impressing his charges since taking the top job in 2016.

“Gareth’s great, I worked with him at the U-21s as well, so we have a good understanding,” Kane said. “He’s brave – he tries to press, plays attacking football. I think he’s done really well since he’s come into the job. The players are getting behind him now and he’s starting to impress his philosophy on to us.”

Kane, Southgate, his squad and millions of England supporters will turn their eyes to Moscow this week when the Final Draw takes place. Partly thanks to their positive qualifying campaign, and the belief instilled in the squad by Southgate, England’s No9 says the draw holds no fear for the Three Lions.

“I’m not one to really think about trying to avoid teams,” Kane said, when asked if there were any countries he feared facing. “If you want to win a big tournament, you’re going to have to play the best teams sooner or later.”

A World Cup year is always eagerly anticipated by players as well as by the millions of fans watching across the globe. The form of England’s main man at the very highest level seems to be improving season after season. So, what will Harry Kane be in 2018?

“Better. Simple as that.”

Defenders in Russia, you have been warned.