Gary Neville piled praise on Harry Kane after his hat-trick against Panama and believes his “world-class” credentials means England fans are right to get excited.
Kane scored a hat-trick – becoming only the third England player to do so at a World Cup – as Gareth Southgate’s side romped to the last 16 with a 6-1 win in Nizhny Novgorod.
And while tougher tests await, Neville reckons Kane’s goalscoring prowess justifies raised hopes among supporters.
“His 2016 tournament was poor, his lead-up to this tournament was difficult between the injury, the goal that he claimed that brought a bit of pressure, but he is the most important player for England,” Neville said on ITV.
“This is a top player, a world-class player – and we don’t have many.
“We’re always accused of getting carried away as England, but when we do have a player that I think every team in the tournament would want, we should get carried away; we should get carried away by him.
“We’re always managing expectations but this guy is the real thing, he’s the real deal.”
England face Belgium in Kaliningrad on Thursday where victory would see them top Group G, but though finishing second could provide a more favourable route through the knockout stage, Neville urged Southgate’s players to dismiss talk of the permutations and retain their focus.
“I’ve never understood how you manage a game to defeat or a draw because, if you did that, you’d manage a game to victory,” Neville said.
“I don’t know how Gareth could send those lads out there and say, ‘We need to get a draw today’ or ‘We need to get more yellow cards’.
“He won’t do that. It’s whether he makes a number of changes to give other players a chance or to see other things before the knockout stage. That’s the only way.
“The only decision Southgate has to make against Belgium is the team he plays – not the result. You go out there to win a game – the other bits are nonsense.”