Harry Kane will make his first England start in tonight’s glamour friendly with Italy – an opportunity manager Roy Hodgson believes the striker fully deserves.
It is hard to fathom the speed at which the 21-year-old’s star has risen, having gone from third-choice striker at Tottenham to the nation’s golden boy in a matter of months.
Kane required just 79 seconds of his Three Lions debut on Friday to head home his first senior international goal, wrapping up a 4-0 win against Lithuania and boosting his chances of starting in Turin.
While Hodgson did not follow Italy counterpart Antonio Conte in naming his starting line-up for tonight’s match, the England manager did confirm the Spurs striker would make his full debut against Italy, three years to the day since being substituted in a 0-0 draw at Cardiff during a loan spell at Millwall.
“I can tell you that Harry Kane will make his full debut, playing from the start and Wayne Rooney will captain the team,” the England boss said.
“I understand why Antonio has done that (named his team) because this is a friendly match and it’s a time to experiment with players.
“But if you really want to know our line-up you will have to wait until tomorrow night when the game kicks off.”
Hodgson, like Conte, will tinker with his side in Turin, where England will move from the 4-3-3 they played in Friday’s victory in order to accommodate both Rooney and Kane.
“I think it’s nice to see the two of them on the field together,” added former Inter Milan and Udinese manager Hodgson.
“Obviously they’ve played a lot in training and the other night they could have, but they didn’t because Harry took Wayne’s place.
“So I am pleased to see them playing together from the start in this game. Harry certainly deserves his chance.”
It certainly looks an exciting partnership between the country’s in-form striker and the man just two goals shy of Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record for England.
“I think it is exciting for English football what Harry has done in the Premier League with Tottenham,” said Rooney.
“He has done fantastic so hopefully he continues that form with England. It is a big night for him, his first start for England. I am sure he will be excited.
“He will go out and try to give his best and I am obviously excited to play with him and hopefully we can do well to hopefully help the team win.”
Rooney believes England are now becoming a team to be feared, partly because of the “streetwise” kind of football he called for after the World Cup.
“The players are so quick and when we lose the ball we want to be aggressive and win it back quickly,” added the England captain.
“I am sure you have heard the manager talk about those little ‘furies’ – that when we lose the ball we have to win it back as quickly as possible.
“There are times when you go and don’t get it, but that is where the defence probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves because they are pushing in right behind us to close the space off.
“With the players we have got, we have to play like that.”
England take on the Azzurri looking to rack up an eighth straight victory in all competitions, even if the opposition during that run has hardly been the ideal yardstick against which to measure progress since last year’s premature World Cup exit.
This Italy side is not one of their greatest, highlighted by Saturday’s draw in Bulgaria, but Tuesday’s match is an intriguing test for England, especially having lost to them 2-1 in last year’s opening game in Brazil.
“Every game we play is a valuable learning exercise,” added Hodgson. “Our real test in friendlies will come when the qualifying period is over.
“We’re hoping then that we’ll have other prestigious international friendlies against top teams, like Italy.
“I think for both Italy and ourselves, the real test of where we are will maybe come when the qualifying period is over.
“We’ve got France to look forward to and we’ve got these preparation matches against teams of Italy’s stature to measure where you are at this moment in time.
“At the moment, of course, it’s slightly different during the qualification period because you have a squad of players and you want to use it.
“But I think this will be an excellent game. I know we are taking the game very seriously, I know Italy will take the game very seriously.
“For many players on both teams, it is a great opportunity to show Antonio Conte and myself that we made the right decision to put them in the squad and we should be considering putting them in the qualifying matches as well.”