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Soccer-Kane says he is fit despite sub-par Euro 2024 performances

By Thomson Reuters Jun 23, 2024 | 10:55 AM

By Lori Ewing

BLANKENHAIN, German (Reuters) – England captain Harry Kane acknowledged on Sunday that his performance so far at Euro 2024 has not been up to his own high standards, but he insisted he is fit amid speculation he may be having back problems.

England sit atop Group C ahead of Tuesday’s game against Slovenia, and Kane said a good win is important to send them into the knockout round with a bit of momentum.

Kane scored in England’s 1-1 draw with Denmark on Thursday but has not looked in top form in either of their matches, leading to criticism from pundits and fans.

“Have I played the best that I know I can? No,” Kane told reporters. “But I didn’t score in the group stage of the (2022) World Cup or the group stage in (Euro 2020), so from my point of view, it’s a bonus to be one goal ahead.

“I always judge myself first and of course I know I can play better … (but) I don’t panic, don’t get too high or too low.”

Kane was subbed off in the second half against the Danes, an unfamiliar sight for fans accustomed to seeing England’s leading goal-scorer on the pitch until the final whistle.

The striker missed Bayern Munich’s final game of the Bundesliga season with a back injury, raising questions about whether he is still carrying a knock.

“The first game I felt as fit as I have all season,” he said. “I came off in the second game, but that was down to the manager wanting to see different, and maybe freshen up the front players especially.

“I’m getting better and better each game and fitter each game, and I spoke in previous tournaments about trying to make sure you’re coming into your peak towards the most important part of the tournament, which is the knockout … but from my point of view it’s important that going into this knockout stage, you’re feeling 100%, and I feel I’m there.”

“It is not a time to panic but a time to improve… At this early stage it is almost like a boxer in the first couple of rounds seeing where everyone is at and how they feel, or a golfer in a major tournament in the first round – don’t play yourself out of the tournament, be calm.”

England, who are hoping to win their first European Championship, have not lived up to their pre-tournament billing as a favourite, so a decisive victory against Slovenia in Cologne is key, said Kane.

“We haven’t played the way we wanted to play,” he said. “Tuesday is important for the feeling of the group, we want to finish top and take the momentum into the knockout stages and just all round have a better feeling coming off the pitch and take that into the rest of the tournament.”

He denied a report of a player-only meeting after the Denmark game, saying the team held a short debrief with manager Gareth Southgate and then had a family day.

“We had seven hours with the family, which I’m not sure all the lads were quite happy about after a few hours,” he said with a laugh. “We might cut that down in the future, but that’s what it was. It was an important day just to switch the minds off.”

Slovenia drew their first two games of the tournament.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)