The world’s best keeper nodded firmly in agreement as it was put to him that his goal was under severe threat from the striker without a goal.
Manuel Neuer, the totem of Bayern Munich and the leader of Germany’s team, is relishing the opportunity to play in one of football’s ‘historic’ fixtures but he is mindful that Harry Kane has the potential to wreck everything for him.
Kane might not have scored in this tournament so far but Neuer is not taking that as a sign that he is about to duel with an out-of-sorts striker. Nor, for that matter, is Germany’s head coach Joachim Low, who took time in his press conference to extol the virtues of England’s captain.
Germany are well aware of Harry Kane’s talents ahead of England clash, says Manuel Neuer
The goalkeeper hailed Kane as ‘dangerous’ and praised his ability in front of goal and in the air
Germany are slight favourites to reach the quarter-finals but both Neuer and Low made it clear that Kane has the potential to ruin their dream. Their words carried a significant warning: to underestimate him would be an act of self-sabotage.
‘Harry Kane? He sacrifices himself and that is a dangerous sign,’ said Neuer. ‘He will be completely motivated, 100 per cent, for this game. We have met him. We know him. We know how good he is. He is great in the air, strong. We know all about his qualities.’
So much so that Low, whose reign in charge of Germany is soon to end, spent the final few moments in front of the cameras detailing the qualities at great length. Some could dismiss his motives as gamesmanship; others would say Low is genuinely concerned.
‘We have to admit that, at one point, England were not so present at the top of world football but they have made improvement under Gareth Southgate,’ said Low. ‘They have great individual qualities — especially in attack. They carry a real threat.
‘Kane can score goals out of whatever situation. He has both feet. He is good in the air, he protects the ball very well. We have to be focused on him but England also have Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount. They have strong offensive players — Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford too.’
Neuer stressed they know how good Kane is as they prepare to keep him quiet on Tuesday
The players Low mentioned were only toddlers when he began his reign in charge of Der Meinschaft, back in 2006, but now these young men are ready to take the game to him. What is riding on the result prompted the 61-year-old’s eloquent summation.
‘This is electrifying,’ he said, simply. ‘At the end of the game, you will be in or out. It is now or never and the loser goes home. There is a lot at stake here — a lot. We know all about the history (of the fixture) but this is going to be a different situation and a different story.’
Neuer was similar deferential, adding: ‘I do not know how they thought about us in the past. We are confident but we are convinced about the quality of England. We know they are strong. They have a lot of weapons, on the wings especially. We have to show belief like we have done before.
He stressed England have ‘a lot of weapons’ ahead of their crucial last-16 contest at Wembley
‘We are all looking forward to this classic situation — Germany against England in Wembley, this historic stadium. It is something special for us. Anyone who has experience of football knows what kind of match this is going to be.’
If past meetings are anything to go by, it will be nerve-shredding, dramatic and, in the end, the Germans will win on penalties. That scenario was even painted to Neuer, who raised a smile when reminded about the back story of shootouts.
Will it be the same again? Neuer’s current goalkeeping coach with the national team, Andreas Kopke, saved Gareth Southgate’s penalty 25 years ago and that infamous meeting has been discussed in recent days.
‘We will get the information and we will be informed about the possibilities,’ said Neuer. ‘It is all about going with your gut feeling.’
There is plenty at stake for Germany, Neuer said, but insists the team are confident of victory
What team Low goes into battle with will only be decided late this morning, as he assesses Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who has suffered ‘cranial bruising’ and Antonio Rudiger, the Chelsea defender, who has a virus. Robin Gosens, the Atlanta left back, is also ill.
One thing that can be said with certainty, however, is there will be a mutual bond between the players before kick-off, one that goes far beyond football. Germany’s team will take the knee alongside England’s squad and it was something they were only too happy to do.
‘We have had the captains’ band with the rainbow colours,’ said Neuer. ‘I have worn it and Harry Kane wants to do the same. We are in favour of taking the knee. It is great to take the same position as England. They are in favour of tolerance so we did not have to discuss it. We show solidarity.’