Kane confident England can go all the way to European glory

Tottenham and England's Harry Kane (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).
Tottenham and England's Harry Kane (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).
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Harry Kane is confident that England Under-21s can win the European Championship, despite starting the tournament with defeat against Portugal.

A bruising build-up proved too much for Gareth Southgate’s side in Uherske Hradiste, with the absence of John Stones and Saido Berahino keenly felt in the Group B opener.

The Young Lions battled hard and proved a constant threat at the Mestsky Fotbalovy Stadion, only to slip to a 1-0 defeat which leaves them potentially facing a third straight group-stage exit.

It makes tomorrow’s match against Sweden a must-win encounter, but star turn Kane remains relaxed and, more surprisingly, confident of overall glory.

Asked if there is a genuine belief that England can win the tournament, he said: “Yeah, definitely. Nothing has changed for us.

“We know winning two games will get you out of the group and that’s still the case.

“It’s not about panicking and changing our game plan, it is still the same. We’ve got to keep playing the way we do.

“We know we’ve got goals in the team, clean sheets in the team and a lot of good players. It’s just about keeping focused and doing the right things.”

Head coach Southgate will be pleased with such comments, so too the ability to call upon Wolves’ Benik Afobe against Sweden after a knee injury saw Berahino return home.

Everton’s former Barnsley defender Stones remains absent due to suspected concussion, but there are no new issues to contend with.

England can certainly ill-afford any more setbacks and keeping Kane fit will be particularly important, especially after such a taxing season and travel-heavy summer.

Post-season trips to Malaysia and Australia with Tottenham was hardly ideal preparation for the Euros, but the forward insists he is not feeling run down.

“I feel fine, I feel fresh,” said Kane. “I am as fit as I ever have been and I really wanted to come to this tournament and try to win this tournament and that’s still the aim.

“I am feeling fine. A lot of the other players have played a lot of games this season as well, but that’s football and that’s what you have to do. To play in these major tournaments, you have to cope with that. There’s no issue.”

Kane is set to clock up more air miles before the summer is out, but there are no lengthy journeys for England’s remaining group matches.

Both are being held out at the Ander Stadium, which is just a 30-second walk from the team hotel in Olomouc – so close that some players’ rooms overlook the pitch.

That is helping to sharpen the squad’s focus as is painful memories of tournaments past, with Kane part of an England side that finished bottom of their group at the Under-20s World Cup two years ago.

“That was a great experience to be playing in a World Cup,” he said. “Obviously that did not pan out as we wanted to, so that was disappointing but these things make you stronger and makes you more experienced and it helps you cope with it better.

“Again, it can only help us. We lost our first game here but nobody is panicking. A few of the lads have been through it before and we still know what we have to do.”

Coach Southgate is also confident England will avoid a third straight group-stage exit.

“I think we’ve played the best team in the group here and run them very close,” said the England head coach after the Portugal game.

“They have some excellent players as we have got and from what I have seen we can still have faith in what we do.

“Now, of course, the margins for error are much smaller, but that is what being in a tournament is all about. The mentality of how we approach things now is really important.”

He continued: “We lost two players (Stones and Berahino) after working on the shape of the team so it is far from ideal, but I thought the players who came in did a good job.

“I thought Jesse (Lingard) had some really exciting moments and looked a threat. We can’t worry about what we haven’t got. We have to look forward now.

“My experience at tournaments tells me a defeat can linger for too long. We now have two days to turn this around.

“I don’t think there is any disgrace at all in our performance. The lads are disappointed to have lost. I think a draw would have been a fair result.

“It was a cruel goal to concede that followed a random series of events. I fully believe we can get out of the group.”

Stones should be available for England’s final group game against Italy, but Southgate is well aware their fate could be sealed by that point.

Sweden secured a surprise 2-1 victory against Italy and return to Olomouc looking to repeat the feat in the early kick-off.

“We play first so we have to go for the win, but I think every game in this tournament has that importance attached to it,” said Southgate.

“We have to make sure our mentality is right and we approach things in the same way.”