For much of a tense game at Wembley on Tuesday, Harry Kane was again bearing the brunt of England supporters’ frustrations – but all that changed with his late goal as Three Lions fans regained some faith in their skipper.
Goalless at Euro 2020 heading into the last-16 meeting with old enemy Germany, Kane was enduring a tournament to forget.
The Tottenham man had appeared off the pace in the three group-stage games, with suggestions that England boss Gareth Southgate might be better off dispensing with the services of his captain in favor of the array of younger talents at his disposal.
When Southgate kept the faith with Kane against the Germans, that looked like a decision that had backfired badly following another woeful first-half performance from the Tottenham man in which he managed only eight touches and spurned a golden chance just before the break when presented with the goal at his mercy and only Manuel Neuer to beat.
What a photo 📸 pic.twitter.com/BIn9kmEgUL
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 29, 2021
At the break, some observers were screaming at Southgate to introduce the likes of Rashford or Sterling.
Unfit or just plain out of form, Kane was clearly struggling – and the momentum against the England captain was mounting online.
— EUROs Tweet (@Football__Tweet) June 29, 2021
He’s doing it again that Harry Kane… pic.twitter.com/vsE0ggyll0
— 𝓛𝓲𝓪𝓶 🐝🏴 (@LJxmes) June 29, 2021
Harry Kane is having the worst tournament of any top-class forward in Europe. At least Mbappé got involved with the play and created danger for the opposition, Kane has been a complete ghost apart from when he tries to pull a Benzema and play overhit balls to Kalvin Phillips.
— Zach Lowy (@ZachLowy) June 29, 2021
Injury or no injury, Kane should be the first off for #ENG if this continues. (Cue a Kane goal now.)
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) June 29, 2021
Time to bring on Sancho…
— Erling Haaland (@ErlingHaaland) June 29, 2021
But all that changed in the space of 11 second-half minutes.
First, Raheem Sterling got on the end of a Luke Shaw cross to poke the ball past Neuer and put England ahead.
It was the Manchester City winger’s third goal of the tournament as he continued his post-season resurgence following a difficult campaign with his club.
3 – Raheem Sterling is only the second player to score each of England's first three goals of an edition of a major tournament (World Cup/EUROs), after @GaryLineker did so at the 1986 World Cup. Magic. pic.twitter.com/SDfOiN3GSR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 29, 2021
But more was to come when Kane finally popped his Euro 2020 cherry. More good work down the left from Jack Grealish ended with him dinking a cross into Kane, who nodded past Neuer from close range.
The Three Lions skipper was mobbed – and the response from Kane fans to his doubters online was swift in coming.
Not fit? Should be dropped?
— Goal (@goal) June 29, 2021
Don't. Ever. Doubt. Harry Kane 🤍🤍🤍 pic.twitter.com/jSFerEmIlQ
— Trevor Lloyd 🏴🦁🦁🦁 (@Trevorlloyd92) June 29, 2021
Kane doubters??????? pic.twitter.com/nl6OTCD0A0
— Conner (@ConnerG_E) June 29, 2021
Every England fan seeing Harry Kane score pic.twitter.com/ovoIt8C6kY
— ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) June 29, 2021
England had their first knockout-stage win over Germany in 55 years and next head into a quarter-final meeting with either Sweden or Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.
Manager Southgate also earned praise for his approach, prioritizing control and game management over flair – although it was undoubtedly the introduction of Aston Villa maverick Grealish for Bukaya Saka on 69 minutes which helped inject some much-needed potency into the English attack.
Jack Grealish. GAME-CHANGER. pic.twitter.com/NZwgmK4DA8
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 29, 2021
It was a question of personal relief for Kane though, as fans will hope his first Euro 2020 strike will open the floodgates for plenty more.