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England’s Harry Kane dilemma laid bare as stats show major problem ahead of Euro 2024 semi-final vs Netherlands

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GARETH SOUTHGATE has a Harry Kane dilemma ahead of the Euro 2024 semi-final.

England face the Netherlands as they bid to reach back-to-back Euros finals, and their captain is the subject of much scrutiny.

EPA
Harry Kane’s performances have presented Gareth Southgate with a dilemma[/caption]
The striker is England’s joint-top scorer at the Euros

Kane, 30, was taken off in extra-time against Switzerland after a lacklustre performance which saw the striker barely involved in play.

In 109 minutes he completed just eight passes, only one of which was in the final third.

Kane also made just four touches in the opposition penalty box, with critics lamenting his failure to get into the area to get on the end of one of Bukayo Saka‘s many crosses.

Alan Shearer has advised Kane to do his work in the box rather than dropping back, with his average position against Switzerland deeper than wing-backs Saka and Kieran Trippier as well as Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden and even Kobbie Mainoo.

Kane’s display has sparked debate over whether he should be dropped, with Ivan Toney and Ollie Watkins alternative options for Southgate.

Gary Lineker pointed to Watkins’ ability to run in behind as a possible option to get the best out of Bellingham and Foden, but Shearer has argued there is no way Kane can be left out.

He told Betfair: “Unless Kane is injured, he plays. He’s the captain and the record goalscorer. There’s no way you can leave him out. Yes, he’s not looked as sharp as we would like him to but he has got two goals.

“Whether he’s carrying an injury I don’t know, but he certainly hasn’t looked sharp. We all know that if a chance falls to him then he’ll more than likely put it away.

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Kane operated in a deeper role than Kieran Trippier and Kobbie Mainoo against Switzerland
He also completed just eight passes

England player ratings: Saka the saviour for Three Lions but subbed Kane stuggles in penalties thriller vs Switzerland

BUKAYO SAKA showed huge courage as he dug England out of a hole and through on penalties against Switzerland, writes Tom Barclay.

The Three Lions looked to be going out when Breel Embolo had put Swiss ahead on 75 minutes.

But Arsenal star Saka dragged England back into five minutes later with a stunning effort off the post.

To penalties it went – just like it did between these two sides five years ago in the Nations League.

And just like back then, Jordan Pickford made a save – repelling the Swiss’s first effort from Manuel Akanji.

England were perfect from then on, with Cole Palmer, Jude Bellignam, Saka, Ivan Toney and finally Trent Alexander-Arnold sending the Three Lions into the semi-final.

Here’s how the players rated…

Jordan Pickford: 7

Had his heart in his mouth when Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner deep into extra-time hit the post and bar, but then pulled off a smart stop to take it to penalties.

Saved Manuel Akanji’s first spot-kick by diving low to his left.

Kyle Walker: 6

Spent most of the game on the right side of a three which meant he could not get forward. Embolo got in front of him for Switzerland’s opener. Won the toss so the penalties were taken in front of the England fans.

John Stones: 6

Crisper passing in the first half, much better than his sloppy Slovakia display, but his deflection on Dan Ndoye’s cross diverted it to Embolo.

Ezri Konsa: 6

Was decent in the first half of his maiden start at a major tournament but, like the rest of the team, went into his shell after the break.

Kieran Trippier: 6

Had been expected to play right wing-back but was once again on the left.

Solid defensively but, as has been the case throughout the tournament, offered little going forward on his unnatural side.

Declan Rice: 7

Anticipated, and subsequently, won a number of 50-50s at the base of England’s midfield.

It was his decoy run that opened up the space for Saka to find the corner, before his 25-yard wonderstrike was denied by a flying Yann Sommer save in extra-time.

Kobbie Mainoo: 6

Some decent drives forward from midfield. Looked as if he would fire home an opener just before the break after

Bukayo Saka’s nice cutback, but was denied by Granit Xhaka’s excellent block.

Bukayo Saka: 8 and STAR MAN

Did not play at left wing-back as expected, but was England’s most dangerous attacking player throughout – and none more so when he came to the rescue with his 80th-minute leveller which flew in off the post.

Showed huge courage in the shoot-out as he stroked home his penalty beautifully, three years on from missing in the last Euros final.

Jude Bellingham: 6

Produced a few graceful dribbles which showcased his quality in the first half but pretty quiet.

Looked knackered but showed big cojones with his low penalty.

Phil Foden: 6

Admitted before the game that his central role would suit him better and it seemed to in the first 20 minutes, but faded after that.

Harry Kane: 4

This system just does not suit him. He needs runners, but does not look like he is going to get them.

Just could not get into the game and was subbed out of it in extra-time, seconds after he was sent crashing into his manager on the touchline.

SUBS

Cole Palmer (for Konsa, 78): 7

One of three players to come on in reaction to Switzerland’s opener – why did it take so long, Gareth? Dispatched England’s first spot-kick with aplomb.

Luke Shaw (for Trippier, 78): 6

First minutes of football since February, slotting in on the left side of back three as Southgate went for broke.

Eberechi Eze (for Mainoo, 78): 6

Carved out a nice bit of space for himself in the dying moments but fired wide.

Ivan Toney (For Kane, 109): 7

It was no surprise to see him come with the prospect of penalties on the horizon – what was more of a shock was that it was for spot-kick maestro Kane. Was knocked over in the box right at the end of extra-time, but nothing was given. Confident penalty.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (for Foden, 115): 7

Thrown on late into extra-time. Belted home his spot-kick to win it.

Gareth Southgate: 4

The adjusted back three system worked to a certain extent, but still the approach looked to be to keep it tight and rely on a moment of magic.

Saka provided that for the leveller, but given the talent at his disposal, it seemed very limited.

Took an age to make a change – prompted only by Switzerland going ahead. But got his subs right when it came to the penalty shoot-out.

“What was said to me when I hit my 30s, was to play in the 18-yard box and not worry about tracking outside of that. I know Harry likes to come short and spray passes about which he’s very good at but his best work needs to be in the box because that’s his game and he wants goals.

“We also have players who can do the job of passing and coming short – it doesn’t need to be him.

“I’d play Harry Kane but I’d be telling him to do his work in the box rather than coming back.

“You wouldn’t bet against Harry getting another one or two goals in the semi-finals and final and that’s the right of reply you have as a forward.”

Pundits, including Lineker, believe Kane’s tendency to drop deep has had a negative impact on Foden and Bellingham, as neither player wants to run in behind the defence like Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford did at previous major tournaments.

In fact, both No10s want to pull the strings and play passes for a striker to run onto – someone like Watkins, says Lineker.

He said on The Rest is Football podcast: “I think all our play is really good until it gets around the edge of the box, but that is where – because neither Foden or Bellingham are naturals at running past Kane and that is the issue.

“He’s not going to start with someone else but even after an hour you could see how things are going and then you could bring on someone like Watkins.

“I think that would release Foden and Bellingham because he constantly looks [to run] behind and whilst he’s not the player Harry Kane is, he’s also a very different option which I think might enhance the team’s chances.

“I know that sounds strange because he’s your best goalscorer but there’s nothing wrong with not playing 90 minutes, even if it’s your captain.

“Or you could do it the other way, start Watkins run them ragged, create the space for the midfield see how it goes and then bring Kane on.

“If the way Kane plays doesn’t suit Foden and Bellingham what’s the most important thing? An individual or the team?”

Micah Richards also accepts Kane is operating too deep but wants the Bayern Munich star to show better movement, as he believes he is capable of getting into goalscoring positions.

He responded to Lineker on the podcast saying: “He comes deep but he’s still got good movement, but his movement has got to be better so then they can play the passes forward quicker.

“Everything we do when we get around the box is just too slow.”

Alan Shearer wants Kane to focus his play in the opposition penalty box

Despite the concerns, Kane is still England’s joint-top scorer at the Euros with two goals and a key leader for the squad.

He previously attracted criticism at previous tournaments but proved his doubters wrong, including scoring in the Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark.

And former Germany player and manager Jurgen Klinsmann thinks it would be “absurd” to drop Kane as he “always comes good”.

But the ex-striker claims Kane needs a partner up-front to get the best out of him.

He said after the Three Lions beat Slovakia in the Round of 16: “Maybe Gareth Southgate will want to start the quarter-final against Switzerland in a 4-4-2 formation, with Ivan Toney alongside Harry Kane up front.

“I understand there can be snobbery about playing a 4-4-2 but sometimes you have to do something different. And I liked the look of Toney when he came on against Slovakia.

“For a real No 9 like Harry Kane to have a strike partner takes a lot of the physical work away. It is a great freedom to have.

“It can still be a fantastic system — two hard-working frontmen like Kane and Toney can be a real threat to the opposition.

“Toney is a menace in the air he can bring a different dynamic to the team.”

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