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CHRIS SUTTON: Harry Kane shrugged-off backlash and nerves to prove his worth in Czech win

CHRIS SUTTON: Harry Kane shrugged-off backlash and nerves to prove his worth for England in Czech Republic win… keep feeding him chances and the captain WILL finally get his goal

That first Euro 2020 goal eluded Harry Kane again, but we cannot accuse England’s No 9 of looking sluggish. 

Not like we did after those first two substandard performances against Croatia and Scotland. Kane shrugged off the criticism from those outings. 

He walked out at Wembley like a striker who wanted to show why he remains Gareth Southgate’s obvious option at the top of the team. 

Harry Kane showed why he’s England’s first name on the team-sheet against Czech Republic

The Three Lions' No 9 had a much improved performance after struggling against Scotland

The Three Lions’ No 9 had a much improved performance after struggling against Scotland 

Maybe there were some nerves at the start of this match, because he seemed to revert to ‘deep’ mode. Kane could be seen dropping towards the halfway line at times. 

But what helped push him up that pitch was the exciting introduction of Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka to England’s line-up. This Czech Republic side were so vulnerable to their direct runs in that first half. 

Southgate’s side seem so much more dangerous when they are on the charge instead of trying to pass an opponent into submission, Manchester City-style. Grealish and Saka played with purpose, and that drove Kane up the pitch, too. 

He would have scored, too, were it not for Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik producing that smart save. He cleverly chopped the ball back on to his preferred right foot to escape his marker, but just couldn’t squeeze the shot beyond Vaclik. 

Kane went close with a superb chance in the first half, but he's getting closer to his first goal

Kane went close with a superb chance in the first half, but he’s getting closer to his first goal 

If his team-mates keep creating chances then the lethal finisher will soon finish one of them off

If his team-mates keep creating chances then the lethal finisher will soon finish one of them off

Special mention must go to Harry Maguire for his driven pass in creating that chance. Kane has needed more of that from his team-mates. This is the best striker in England we’re talking about. 

Create chances for him and give or take the odd miss or save, it’s likely he’ll get you a goal in return. Kane is used to proving people wrong. Those who thought he’d end up a one-season wonder were left embarrassed. 

Kane could have done with greater service in the second half of Tuesday’s match but he need not worry too much. The goals will come – as long as England feed him.

Get the crosses in!

Anyone who watched Germany’s 4-2 win over Portugal on Saturday will have seen how all four of the hosts’ goals came from balls into the box. 

Anyone who watched England’s 0-0 draw with Scotland a day earlier will have seen how we seemed hellbent on keeping the ball out of the box! 

Only Hungary and Ukraine had produced fewer crosses than Southgate’s side heading into Euro 2020’s third group games.  

Kane needs his team-mates putting in more crosses to attack so they can unlock his best

Kane needs his team-mates putting in more crosses to attack so they can unlock his best 

If I was Kane in that scenario, I’d have been barking at my team-mates stationed out on the wings to give me something to attack. 

Thankfully England upped their game when it comes to crossing on Tuesday night. Luke Shaw was curling them in consistently from the left, which he wasn’t doing against the Scots, and there was no hesitation from Jack Grealish in the 12th minute. 

He lifted that inviting ball into the space at the back post, and one of the smallest men on the pitch in Raheem Sterling headed it home. That gave England the perfect early start.

Perfect Pickford 

Back in the day, we’d have to pop into a pub to hear what the fans really thought of us and our performances. 

Now, players only have to log on to social media. Jordan Pickford will have been intrinsically aware of the scrutiny on him as he headed into Euro 2020. 

I myself fancied seeing Nick Pope as England’s No 1, until a knee injury forced him out of Southgate’s squad. 

Everton's Jordan Pickford is having another strong tournament and justifying his No 1 spot

Everton’s Jordan Pickford is having another strong tournament and justifying his No 1 spot 

But Pickford is proving a safe pair of hands and he’s been just as sharp with his feet. He produced a fine flying save to deny Tomas Holes from finding the top-left corner inside the opening half hour. 

He then followed that up by demonstrating his passing ability before the break, playing a lovely floated ball into the middle of the pitch for Grealish. The Aston Villa attacker showed his appreciation with a thumbs up back towards his goalkeeper. 

Everyone knows Southgate likes that Pickford can play a pass, but he’s done a fine job of keeping the ball out of the back of his net, too. 

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