Harry Kane has said his message to his England teammates just before he leads them out to face Germany at Wembley on Tuesday afternoon will be to play with freedom.
For many in the side the match will be the biggest occasion of their careers yet Kane is adamant that all of them should express themselves. “The messaging will be what it’s been all week: be free, enjoy it,” the captain said. “We all want to win, that will naturally come out in our performance. We’ve had experience at international and club level now so we’ve just got to go out there and enjoy it and make the most of it.”
England’s previous match was last Tuesday’s final 1-0 group win over Czech Republic. “We’ve had a long time to prepare for this game,” Kane said. “It almost feels like the talking’s done, now we just really want to get out there and be excited for it.”
The 27-year-old is conscious of the opposition’s formidable record in major tournaments, with West Germany or Germany having won four World Cups and three European Championships and been runners-up four times in the former and three times in the latter. Yet Kane sees Tuesday’s meeting as a chance for England to take the next step in their own bid to become a major force.
“Germany have been hugely successful in international football,” he said. “When you look at their history and the trophies they’ve won they’ve had a huge impact.
“I feel like their squad is very strong. I know people have been talking about it maybe not being as strong as it was in the past but when I look at their individuals and the players and experience they’ve got I would definitely say it’s one of their best teams.
“We know we have a tough game on our hands and a tough challenge. German teams seem to go far in a lot of tournaments. We need to try to break that mould from our point of view. Our history isn’t as good. I think we’ve only won one knockout game in 50 years or so in this competition [against Spain penalties at Euro 96]. It’s a challenge for us as players to write our own history and put a marker down, hopefully for the rest of the tournament.”
Kane was in the England side managed by Roy Hodgson that lost 2-1 to Iceland in the last 16 of Euro 2016. Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Marcus Rashford also featured that night and may do so against Germany. That group of players, as well as Kieran Trippier, Harry Maguire, John Stones and Jordan Pickford, were involved in the 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia and Kane hopes those experiences can inspire them to beat Joachim Löw’s side.
“It was one of the toughest losses I’ve had so far in my career,” he said of the 2-1 defeat by Iceland. “We had high expectations of ourselves and the country had high expectations of us and we fell short on that night which was hard to take. But I’ve always said you definitely learn from experiences like that, you learn from the losses you have in your career. But the bottom line is we have to go out and show that on Tuesday night.
“That’s down to us as players to take that responsibility on. There will be times where we go through difficult spells. Germany might be on top for a spell and it is about us looking around the pitch as individuals and taking responsibility to turn momentum around. This [is] the difference between winning and losing big games.”
Kane brushed off concerns that he is yet to score in the tournament. “The [objective] is to try and reach the quarter-finals so whether I’m scoring or not that is most important,” he said.
Against Germany he will wear a rainbow armband, as Manuel Neuer has done for Germany’s three group matches. This is to mark the end of Pride month and support the LGBTQ+ community. “It is a show of solidarity from all of us to be united in trying to kick out all inequalities there are,” he said. “We’re on a huge platform so it is obviously a great opportunity to do so.”