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Gareth Southgate must find England’s Plan B without relying on Harry Kane

From an English point of view, the event at Wembley Stadium last Sunday night was an unmitigated ­disaster.

The proposed UK-Ireland bid to stage World Cup 2030 is holed beneath the waterline before it has even left port.

As the online racist abuse kicked in post-match, this was a full house of all we have ­complained is wrong with the game in so many other ­countries.

It truly was a day of shame.

But there was nothing for this very good England team to be ashamed of.

On and off the pitch, they acquitted themselves with great distinction.

But such was the gravity of the problems away from the pitch in the ultimate game in Euro 2020 that the performance on it has gone relatively unnoticed.

Gareth Southgate led England to within a penalty shootout of winning Euro 2020

That will not be the case with Gareth Southgate. Having fallen at the semi-final hurdle in 2018 and then the final hurdle three years later, he will be wondering what can be done to get over the finishing line in Qatar next year.

And when he looks back at that attritional game against Italy, he should be addressing the Harry Kane question.

Pep Guardiola once billed Tottenham as the ‘Harry Kane team’. England is in danger of becoming the ‘Harry Kane team’.

As against Croatia, the ­Kane-led England attack ceased to cause Italy any significant problems after the first quarter of the match.

It looked suspiciously as though Kane was being kept on as much for the penalty shootout – in which he scored – as for anything else.

That Kane is the best English striker out there is ­undeniable.

Whether Manchester City will think his Euro performances make a potential nine-figure transfer fee good value is another matter, but he is the most accomplished centre-forward in the Premier League.

Without doubt.

Harry Kane cut a frustrated figure during the Euro 2020 final against Italy
Harry Kane cut a frustrated figure during the Euro 2020 final against Italy

But, going forward, ­Southgate must come up with attacking alternatives.

After England’s encouraging opening salvoes, Italy got Kane’s measure, but Southgate refused to countenance other options.

Even playing with a false nine might have given Giorgio ­Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci more problems.

Perhaps the pace of Marcus Rashford through the middle, assuming that possession could be won in midfield, might have unsettled those veteran ­defenders.

Who knows?

But it certainly looked as if England ran out of attacking ideas pretty quickly.

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Southgate was right to ignore suggestions from some ­quarters that Kane should have been dropped after a quiet start to the tournament. His ­performance in the quarter-­final against Ukraine justified Southgate’s unswerving faith.

The England manager always dances around questions that imply Kane is untouchable.

But right now, as long as he is fit and available, Kane plays.

And, of course, he has served England very well indeed, ­captaining the side with ­authority, normally striking the right note.

But across four of the most important hours of football at World Cup 2018 and Euro 2020, Kane has led the English line and made minimal impact.

That is the stark truth of the matter.

No one can deny that Kane is the best English striker out there.

But as long as Southgate seems to think he is the only ­option, that final step might still prove elusive for a very good England team.




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