Two games into a tournament that was meant to cement his status as the world’s best No9, Harry Kane has been substituted twice and is yet to have a shot on target. If there was a feeling after the Croatia game that he was easing himself into proceedings, last night it became clear that he is off the pace and uncertain of his exact movements in this system. The service was poor, undoubtedly, but Kane has proven his ability to create for himself and others time and time again in the past. Why has he struggled to this extent? Tiredness is perhaps the most convincing excuse and, while only a fool may be tempted to write him off, the pressure will be ramped up further against Czech Republic on Tuesday.
James’s double trouble
Reece James was brought in for Kyle Walker with the aim to get forward a bit more than the Manchester City player could on Sunday. Scotland’s wing back system invited it. Or so the theory went. There were a couple of decent crosses from the Chelsea youngster in the first half but of greater concern ahead of the meeting with the Czechs was how he struggled to deal with Scotland’s two-pronged attack down the left. He endured a couple of runarounds from Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson as the former overlapped when the opportunity arose and it flagged up a weakness in his game that still requires work.
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The Arsenal defender, who is set to sign a new long-term contract at the Emirates once the tournament concludes, was immense. Having missed the defeat to Czech Republic because of a calf injury sustained in training 48 hours earlier, Scotland looked far more assertive with him in the side. While Billy Gilmour deserved all the plaudits that came his way at Wembley ( read 800 words about that here ), Tierney cleared everything that came his way on the defensive end and offered an outlet in attack that Liam Cooper could not provide. His link up with Robertson is perhaps Scotland’s greatest asset.
So much has been made of England’s attacking depth and how there are so many options available to Gareth Southgate that it must be difficult to settle on the best formula. Why then, in a game crying out for change and with a front three all struggling, did the manager only use two substitutes in the 63rd and 74th minute? Now thoughts turn to the changes he could make from the start come Tuesday, where a draw is enough to progress in second and a win in first. The clamour for Jack Grealish grows strong despite his ineffectiveness across 27 minutes last night. And what about Jadon Sancho?
Boos drowned out by cheers
While Bono’s tournament song played loudly through the speakers (deliberate, who knows?) as both sets of players took the knee, a smattering of boos could be heard. But the cheers were far louder compared to Sunday and even more so the friendlies in Middlesbrough. Maybe the message is getting through? Or maybe they had just used up all their capacity to jeer during the national anthems.
Now for some levity. Long before kick off the players took their regular stroll around the pitch, spending five minutes or so in the centre circle chatting. As they headed down the tunnel in small clusters Brighton defender Ben White, a transfer target for Arsenal, was given a fright when the spider camera used to provide overhead shots on television hovered a little close to him as he turned around. The 23-year-old, who was not named in the matchday squad, was startled to the extent he jumped a little but then quickly saw the funny side.
Also, a shout out to Mason Mount for his glance to the sky and subsequent utterance of a swear word when he saw the rain falling as the teams emerged from the tunnel.