Harry Kane was non-existent for the final hour of England’s World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia, just when the Three Lions needed their captain the most.
That was Jeremy Cross’ assessment as he joined Neil Ashton and Matt Dickinson on the World Cup Supplement to reflect as the Three Lions fell agonisingly short of a first final appearance since 1966.
The chief sports writer at the Daily Star believes Kane expended so much energy in the last-16 victory over Colombia and never rekindled the form which saw him score six goals in England’s first four matches at Russia 2018.
“It may seem churlish to criticise Kane because, as we sit here, he’s winning the race to win the golden boot,” Cross said. “But he was really poor against Sweden.
“I thought maybe he was lethargic but would hopefully recharge his batteries and come back stronger in the semi-final, but he was non-existent for the last hour of the game.
“He looked laboured running around which was quite concerning. He put so much energy into the Colombia game, where he was kicked around from start to finish, it was almost like that was his big game after expending so much energy.
“It clearly had an effect on him. Kane has been captain and you don’t know how much that has taken out of him emotionally. It’s a huge honour and big ask to be captain of England.”
Kane had the chance to cap a fine first-half performance for England by doubling their lead on 30 minutes at the Luzhniki Stadium, with Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic thwarted his low shot before the Tottenham striker struck the rebound against the post.
With the exception of a free header in stoppage-time, a visibly fatigued Kane remained on the periphery of game, leading chief sports writer at The Times, Dickinson, to question Gareth Southgate’s decision to keep him on the field.
“I actively questioned England’s substitutes during the game because Kane looked spent,” he said.
“Perhaps removing England’s symbolic penalty taker ahead of a potential shootout played on Southgate’s mind.
“But a long way out from the finish, Kane looked tired and it was a big call to leave him on.”