Paul Merson says England’s hopes rest on Harry Kane but backs him to deliver

England v Scotland – UEFA Euro 2020 – Group D – Wembley Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Paul Merson believes England’s hopes of winning Euro 2020 rest on Harry Kane’s form but backed the Three Lions captain to deliver the goods against Czech Republic.

England boss Gareth Southgate confirmed on Sunday the Tottenham forward would start Tuesday’s final Group D fixture despite failing to have a shot on target against Croatia or Scotland and being without a goal in six games at the European Championships.

Kane has been replaced in both matches of this tournament and his peripheral presence has been widely debated, but the belief of the 27-year-old, who has scored 34 goals in 56 appearances for England, has been talked up this week.

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“The only way you are going to win the tournament is Harry Kane and if he hits fire. If he doesn’t hit fire, we’re not winning the tournament,” Merson, speaking on behalf of official Euro 2020 sponsor Hisense, told the PA news agency.

“Kane scores his goals in blocks and he is the only player I know in the world, as a forward, who could have the two games he has had and still score a hat-trick this week.

“I have watched him play in the Premier League on a Saturday and thought how is he one of the best players in the world, because he has been marked out of the game and hardly got a kick. And then the following game he gets a hat-trick.

“There is no one else like him. His confidence never gets shot and he won’t be doubting himself one bit right now. He will just be thinking about the next game because he knows how good he is and that is why he is special and one of the best.”

Part of Kane and England’s problem has been creating chances for their talisman, who had only 18 touches during Friday’s goalless draw with Scotland.

It was a similar number (26) in the 1-0 win over Croatia with the Spurs striker at times dropping deep to become more involved in the play, a tactic successful with Tottenham last season where he won the Premier League golden boot and also scooped the award for most top-flight assists.

But Merson added: “When you play for Tottenham, teams have a go at them and it opens the game up so Harry plays in open games and drops off and has runners like Son (Heung-min).

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“Playing for England, at the moment teams are sitting 10 behind the ball and trying to counter-attack us so when he comes short into midfield there are already six players in there because we’re both playing three v three.

“Virtually every play is in that part of the pitch anyway so how are you going to get the ball? He is getting frustrated because no one is giving him the ball.”

Ex-England international Merson cited players like Jorginho and Toni Kroos as the missing component for Southgate’s team and questioned whether Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse could have helped fill that void.

The Saints midfielder was one of the unlucky seven to miss out on the final 26-man squad after it had been trimmed down from 33. Hisense, meanwhile, are currently giving away a lucky chip with all TVs – aimed at bringing good luck to all the home nations at Euro 2020.

Merson said: “We have millions of number 10s and wingers, but we have got no one who will pass them the ball. We need a Steven Gerrard, a Paul Scholes type to find them.

“The nearest one to it who I am looking at now is Ward-Prowse because he can get on the ball, keep it ticking over, spray balls left and right and plays with a tempo. He has a set-play when it is tight too. We missed a trick with Ward-Prowse.”

Next up for the Three Lions is the visit of the Czech Republic to Wembley where victory will ensure they top the group.

Back in 1998 Merson scored against the Czechs under the arch in Brent and would like to see Southgate make changes and revert to his wing-backs system which brought success at the World Cup three years ago.

“Change it up, play three at the back, do something different. Get some wing-backs on the pitch who will bomb forward because they can all play,” the 21-capped attacker insisted.

“He has to change it up because if you keep doing the same thing in life, you get the same results and if you keep the same team, it will get the same results and they won’t be good enough.”

:: Paul Merson was speaking on behalf of Euro 2020 sponsor Hisense. Right now, all Hisense TVs come with a lucky chip aimed at bringing good luck to all home nations.

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