Euro 2020: Neil Humphreys: Rise and shine, Harry Kane
England captain can afford to be a bit more selfish
Harry Kane produces enough riddles to fill a Dr Seuss picture book.
He became a complete striker because he plays for an incomplete club. He's a multi-faceted forward that could be more one-dimensional for his country.
Indeed, the more effective he becomes for Tottenham Hotspur, the less effective he may be for England.
Kane is a riddle, wrapped in a Spurs mystery, inside an English enigma.
And solutions must be sought in the critical clash against Scotland tomorrow morning (Singapore time), or further questions will be asked of the strangest of Three Lions dilemmas.
The most gifted finisher in his attacking line-up isn't finishing much.
There was no shame in not scoring in the 1-0 win over Croatia, but a Euro 2020 opener probably wasn't the ideal setting for Kane's most lethargic performance.
He doesn't quite fit. Or, the new and improved Kane doesn't quite gel with the equally dynamic forwards around him.
For Tottenham, the 27-year-old adapted his game out of necessity. Spurs aren't very good. So the striker doubled up as a No. 10, dropped deep, found Son Heung-min, repeated the exercise for 90 minutes and hoped for the best.
And it often worked. Son and Kane shared goals and assists as the Englishman morphed into a remarkably intelligent forward, comfortable anywhere in the final third.
At Spurs, he has only Son. Against Croatia, he had title winners Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden, with further support from Champions League winner Mason Mount and the outstanding Kalvin Phillips.
And still, Kane doubled up as a No. 10, dropped deep and you know the rest. His numbers against Croatia were awful.
No shots on target, he only touched the ball 26 times. He spent too much time dropping into an already busy midfield.
The Croatia win didn't squander his talents quite like his infamous corner kick-taking exercise against Iceland at Euro 2016, but he had no real presence in the six-yard box. Again.
LACK OF GOALS
Kane has only two England goals in his last 10 appearances - and just one of them was from open play.
A similar scenario played out at the 2018 World Cup, at least in the games that mattered. Kane collected the Golden Boot for collecting five early goals against the obliging minnows of Tunisia and Panama.
In the knockout stages, he managed a solitary penalty goal against Colombia in the round of 16.
Once the semi-final came around, he was a weary shadow of his formidable self, giving everything in less dangerous positions and ending up with nothing.
None of this is Kane's fault, of course. A tireless loyalist, he's committed to England's cause, rather than his own. But a little selfishness might go a long way.
At Euro 1996, the last time that England took on hosting duties at Wembley, Alan Shearer arrived under a much darker cloud. The striker had endured a 21-month scoring drought for his country.
But no one was more clinical in the box. By the law of averages, if the chances came, Shearer would do the rest eventually. And he did, five times in fact.
Shearer showed that international football could be simplified. Darren Anderton and Steve McManaman supplied enough crosses. He just had to be there.
But Kane often isn't there. His selflessness takes him out of the box, turns his back to goal and drags him deeper into midfield, highlighting his prodigious talent but reducing his scoring chances.
In Shearer's role as a TV pundit, he's overly fond of the phrase "sticking the ball in the back of the net" when discussing Kane, or any elite striker for that matter, underlying his obsession with the literal job description.
In his prime, Shearer expected to be on the end of every cross inside the box. His territory. His responsibility.
Kane needs to be in similar positions against Scotland and perhaps a greater understanding between his teammates and manager is required.
Foden, Sterling, Mount, Phillips, Marcus Rashford and Kane are all accomplished, but Kane is the most reliable finisher. Their different jurisdictions should play to their different strengths.
Kane must be allowed to take up residence in the penalty box.
He's blossomed into a wonderful footballer, but he might consider Shearer's unvarnished advice and just focus on sticking the ball in the back of the net.