Harry Kane insists England are “not afraid” of saying they can win the 2022 World Cup and believes their poor form has lowered expectations heading to Qatar.
Gareth Southgate’s side are one of the bookmakers’ favorites to win the tournament having reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, while they finished as runners-up at last year’s European Championships.
But Kane feels the Three Lions can go one step further in the Middle East and win their first major trophy since lifting the World Cup in 1966.
In an exclusive interview with Sky SportsEngland captain Kane said: “We have to believe we can win it.
“I look back at England 10, 15 years ago and it was almost [like] we were scared to say we wanted to win it. I think one of the big shifts that we’ve made over the last four or five years with Gareth is not being afraid to say that.
“Look, we’re going to this tournament to win it because we believe we can. It’d be wrong to think otherwise. What’s the point of going to a World Cup and not believing that you can bring the trophy home?
“It’s going to be tough and we’re going to have to work extremely hard, have a little bit of luck and have a lot of things go our way to achieve that.
“But I think it’s important not to be afraid to say that that’s what we’re going there to do.”
‘Poor form has lowered expectations’
Southgate’s side, however, go into the World Cup off the back of a winless Nations League campaign that ended in relegation.
England begin the tournament against Iran on November 21 looking for their first win in seven games after three draws and three losses, but Kane believes their poor form has helped to lower expectations heading to Qatar.
“The first game’s really important, for sure,” Kane said. “Of course it hasn’t been the greatest period in a long time for England. Since Gareth took charge – we haven’t had a spell like we’ve had.
“But in a way before a major tournament that can be a really good thing because it allows you not to be carried away, or even the media or the press to get carried away.
“I feel like if we won every game leading up to this tournament it would’ve been, ‘We’re guaranteed to win it’ and ‘We’re going to win it’, and that can come with a different pressure.
“We feel like being judged on major tournaments is the main thing and the last two we’ve had been good.
“We have a good confidence within ourselves that we can go and have a great tournament in Qatar.”
Kane: Rolling straight into World Cup mid-season ‘helps’
Kane has been in fine form for Tottenham this season having scored 13 goals in all competitions, including a goal in Spurs’ final game before the World Cup in Saturday’s home win over Leeds.
But the 29-year-old has played 22 consecutive games for Tottenham, raising question marks over his fitness levels.
Kane, however, believes the mid-season World Cup, which gets under way on November 20, is helpful for him.
He said: “For sure, I’d rather be going into it playing loads of games where you feel match fit.
“Sometimes after the season in the summer you have a break and then you have to gear back up to play and you haven’t played a lot of games.
“I think rolling into it can help – as long as you manage it well and you recover well. I think recovery is the most important thing for any player in this period.
“You can try and train as much as you can but the bottom line is you need to be ready to have all your energy ready for the game, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The 2022 World Cup will be Kane’s fourth major tournament with England and he explained what challenges they bring.
“I think major tournaments test you the most in terms of the high pressure,” he said. “Playing for England is always high pressure but in a major tournament there’s always that added incentive.
“There’s probably going to be a penalty shootout – teams that get to the final normally have to win at least one penalty shootout, so they’re high-pressure moments.
“The mentality of being away from home, being in camp for five or six weeks but this one is fairly quick because it’s during the season. Normally you’re away four or five weeks before the tournament and then you’re away four or five weeks in the tournament, so it is a long period of time where you’re just outside your comfort zone.
“But I guess what separates the top nations and the winning nations from the others is who can deal with that the best.”
Neville: We should cut England slack at World Cup
Speaking on Sky Sports’ World Cup Special, Gary Neville said: “I think we should be immensely proud of these players. I look at my own career and the tournaments I’ve been to, these players went further than I ever went to. They went to finals and sowing. That’s an incredible achievement for England.
“Gareth has earned the right to be able to have a more difficult tournament. I’m not saying we should go out of the group, but if he got to the second round or got knocked out in the quarter-finals, he should still be in a position to decide whether he continues or not.
“Those players have built up a massive rapport. You can see they have changed the dynamic and the spirit of the squad. It looks like they get on with each other, you can see that when they play each other in the Premier League. I think they’ll deliver for us in the tournament.
“I think they’ll struggle to get past the quarter-final because of the path that they end up in but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad tournament and these players should be ridiculed for it. They’ve had a brilliant four, five years under Gareth and to be fair we should cut them some slack going into this tournament.”