Harry Kane feels “as match fit as I’m ever going to feel” as he prepares to lead England against Senegal at the World Cup on Sunday.
England captain Kane has yet to score in Qatar and has struggled to hit top form after sustaining an ankle injury in the opening 6-2 victory over Iran.
He concedes he would liked to have opened his account but is not overly concerned and says it is all part of a plan to peak as the tournament develops.
The Tottenham striker said: “At the World Cup in 2018, from a physical side of things, we started the tournament well, I scored a load of goals and as the tournament progressed, my performances dipped.
“At the Euros I tried to do it the other way round to make sure I was in the best place for the knockouts. I’d love to be sitting here with two or three goals but, minutes-wise, it hasn’t been too tough, and hasn’t been too physical heading into the knockout stages.
“I feel really good, I feel as match fit as I’m ever going to feel. Only time will tell but hopefully I can do well tomorrow and bring my best form into the knockout phase.”
On his ankle, he added: “It feels fine. I had that knock in the first game but it’s been getting better day by day and I almost don’t feel it at all now. Form-wise I feel like I’ve been playing well. The goals are what I will be judged on but I am calm and always try to focus on the team, do my best and I can do that in many different ways.
“I will continue to do that and if the goals come then great. As a striker I always want to be scoring goals, it’s going to be a tough game against Senegal but hopefully I can get off the mark.”
Final preparation before Senegal!
— England (@England)
Kane dismissed suggestions England have not performed well at the World Cup so far ahead of their round of 16 clash with the Africa Cup of Nations champions at Al Bayt Stadium.
He said: “We scored the most goals in the group stage [alongside Spain] and we have a good defensive record.
“I think we’re in a good place. The group stage is just about getting through, we did our job and now it’s a second competition of knockout football. We have to be prepared to face a tough side on Sunday.
“Senegal’s greatest asset is their togetherness, that’s what’s seen them become African champions and get through the group stage here. It’ll be a tough test but you’re at the World Cup, so you expect to play against the best in the world.”
England boss Gareth Southgate has a fully fit squad to choose from but some selection dilemmas, primarily in attacking positions with Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling all candidates to play wide of Kane.
“It’s a good position to be in,” said Southgate. “You want your players in confident mood and our forward players are. You want to make the best decision possible and in some respects I am not sure there’s a right or wrong answer.
“They all offer different attributes and it’s just trying to get the balance right and make the best decisions.”
Southgate is aware of the task that awaits his side and does not feel the absence of injured Bayern Munich forward Sadio Mane weakens Senegal.
He added: “We’ve been really impressed by them. They are African champions and have a lot of belief in the team. They have some excellent individual players that can cause problems and a good structure.
“[Senegal coach] Aliou [Cisse] has done a fantastic job. They were unlucky not to qualify from their group in 2018 and did so this time.
“Mane is an incredible player and every team in the world would want to have him but Senegal have become stronger in his absence. They have shown great spirit but losing him doesn’t change the level of difficulty of the fixture tomorrow. We have to be at our very best to win the game.”