Harry Kane has already made his presence known with a brace against Tunisia. Can he kick on to produce a memorable World Cup campaign in Russia?
It’s easy to play with football statistics, to take the numbers and make them fit a narrative to underline a seemingly salient point. So, here’s one for you: In the space of 90 minutes versus Tunisia the other night, Harry Kane scored twice the number of World Cup goals that Wayne Rooney (11 games) managed in his entire career.
His two goals matched the tally of Alan Shearer, although the Geordie legend only played in one World Cup. His brace also matched the combined efforts of the entire England squad at Brazil 2014.
While that use of a statistic somewhat skews the facts and, indeed, is probably somewhat unfair to both Rooney and Shearer, it does serve to highlight Kane’s growing importance to the England team. For all the overreaction and over-analysis of England’s performances over the last handful of World Cups, it sometimes overlooked just how sterile they have been up front.
Since 2002, no England striker scored more than one goal at World Cups. It was left to the likes of Steven Gerrard to get on the scoresheet in the games.
Teams can’t afford to misfire upfront
Of course, a nation will never get far in the World Cup without a top striker. Even Spain, who famously haven’t played a traditional number nine in past tournaments, had to rely on David Villa’s goals to take them all the way in 2010. For Kane against Tunisia, it was not about being the man who scores goals, but the man who scores the important goals.
It’s exactly the type of talismanic quality Gareth Southgate was hoping for when he gave the Spurs man the captain’s armband.
On a personal level, things are looking good for the always goal-hungry Kane. His odds for the Golden Boot were slashed to 13/2 by Bet365. While that’s still a good distance behind the favourite Cristiano Ronaldo (10/11 after his opening goal in Portugal’s game against Morocco), it’s still ahead of others who have had a good start like Lukaku (8/1) and Griezmann (16/1).
Put simply, the bookies took notice of Kane’s performance and acted on it. Things are changing on a daily basis in Russia though, so it’s worth keeping an eye on expert World Cup betting tips before you part with your money.
England’s odds slashed
As for England, they too shifted downwards in the odds, from about 18/1 pre-tournament to 12/1 now with the majority of major bookmakers. That’s a major shift to be making on the evidence of a single game, but it is based on the performances of England and, indeed, Harry Kane.
Of course, a poor performance against Belgium will completely reset that clock, but these are never arbitrary decisions by bookmakers. Betting companies are not trying to appease optimistic England fans.
In the past, legendary figures like Mario Kempes, Paulo Rossi and Ronaldo have scored the goals that dragged their nations to World Cup glory. Kane has not done enough to warrant being mentioned in that company just yet. But it is to another World Cup legend that he must look to for inspiration: Gary Lineker.
The 1986 Golden Boot winner, of course, never won a World Cup, but his tally of 10 goals across two tournaments puts him ahead of the likes of Diego Maradona, Jairzinho and Eusebio in the all-time scoring charts.
It’s only a start, a small step, but Kane, like Lineker, can become the man to rely on. The man who delivers.