In part one of a five part series, Soccer Scribe looks at the players, teams, and coaches feeling the pressure going into the Russian World Cup.
Harry Kane (England)
Harry Kane has had another excellent club season at Tottenham. He looked a threat in Europe as well as domestically – and that was a significant step forward for a player whose greatest contribution at Euro 2016 was taking a few corners and producing one of the worst free kicks in tournament history. England have cannon fodder in Tunisia and Panama before they face Belgium in Group G. Poland, Senegal, Japan, and Colombia are hardly insurmountable challenges in the last 16. Kane needs to prove himself a top international player in June and, perhaps, July. It’s not unreasonable to expect him to contend for the Golden Boot – at least after the first phase of the tournament. He really doesn’t have too many excuses.
When a country is blessed with a so-called golden generation, one wonders if it’s really a curse. Portugal at the turn of the century, England under Sven, and now Belgium with Hazard, De Bruyne, and Lukaku have all been heralded in this manner – and only the Portuguese seriously threatened to win anything. Any team with both Rui Costa and Luis Figo would sparkle – and those players did make a European Championship final, another semi-final, and a World Cup semi-final – but England were an abomination of hype, the Steve G Sideshow, with Paul Scholes bumped off centre stage to accommodate bigger “names” like Frank Lampard. Belgium have more talented players than that England squad did, but their self-regard is similar. For all the Premier League hype, Hazard, De Bruyne, and the rest have done nothing at international level. Roberto Martinez, the coach, has done nothing at Premier League level. There’s really nothing to suggest that this team will fulfil whatever potential people think they have and make, say, a World Cup semi-final like Figo’s crowd. Fool’s gold.