Harry Kane central to Tottenham’s chances in Juventus clash

Harry Kane celebrating his goal in Turin in the first-leg against Juventus. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Harry Kane central to Tottenham’s chances in Juventus clash

LONDON: A little over a year ago, Tottenham drew 2-2 at Wembley against the Belgian side Gent. It might have been their lowest moment under Mauricio Pochettino. Dele Alli was sent off for a spiteful lunge and they never looked like getting the better of limited opponents who had won the first leg 1-0. Tottenham had gone out of the Europa League in the last 32 and two mighty narratives were in full flow: Tottenham couldn’t play in Europe and they couldn’t play at Wembley.
Since then they have won 17 and lost just two of 23 matches they have played at the national stadium, having moved in full-time while White Hart Lane is rebuilt. They have beaten Borussia Dortmund home and away, taken four points off Real Madrid and come from 2-0 down to draw away to Juventus. Their progress has been spectacular.
This, perhaps, is Tottenham’s greatest strength. They may not have the budget of other top-six clubs, and they may live in constant fear of their squad being scattered by richer rivals, but they learn faster than anybody else.
At the heart of both the team and that ethos is Harry Kane. He is the Premier League’s joint top-scorer with 24 goals this season and averages 5.8 shots per game, 1.8 more than anybody else in the league.
Any suggestion he is selfish, though, could not be more wrong, as his remarkable hanging cross for Son Heung-min on Saturday demonstrated.
He himself has said that he regards his performances against Madrid, when he did not score but worked tirelessly to hold the ball up, as his best of the season.
“I think, he is very good not only at scoring goals but linking, assisting, working for the team,” Pochettino said at the weekend. “I think he is a great player. Of course, you need a good mentality and willingness to work. What the offensive players like is to have the ball and shoot and score goals, and then when they need to work and run in behind to the ball and try to chase the opponent, put pressure on, that is the more difficult part to teach, to make them available to run for the team.”
Nobody in the Premier League needs any convincing of Kane’s excellence but the next stage for him is a truly dominant performance either in a big game for England or in a Champions League knockout match.
His display in Turin came close as he harried Juventus constantly in possession, posed a persistent threat and, having been thwarted by one remarkable save from Gianluigi Buffon, took his goal with great style, banging his finish authoritatively into an empty net, even though the act of taking the ball round the goalkeeper forced him wide.
Kane is well aware of the strides Spurs have made this season, particularly in Europe where they have shown they can play a patient game if needed. “We made a big step in that respect by what we did in the group stage,” he said, “and now we have got to try and do it against the big teams consistently.”
Given how Juventus wobbled in the face of Tottenham’s pressing, though, it would be a surprise if they sat off at Wembley. This is a chance for one of the great nights in the club’s history, a great step in the development both of Tottenham and Kane.


Lionel Messi under pressure once again at World Cup as Ronaldo tops goals charts

Updated 16 min 44 sec ago
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Lionel Messi under pressure once again at World Cup as Ronaldo tops goals charts

YEKATERINBURG: Lionel Messi is under pressure to deliver when Argentina face Croatia on Thursday after his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo streaked clear at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts.
The Barcelona forward had a first game to forget, failing to convert a penalty as the two-time world champions drew 1-1 with Iceland in their Group D opener.
In stark contrast, Ronaldo, who last month won his fifth Champions League winner’s medal, now has four goals in Russia and looks a shoo-in to win his sixth world player of the year award.
Elsewhere on Thursday, 1998 champions France can virtually ensure progress from Group C with a win against Peru, while Australia need to bounce back against Denmark after losing to Les Bleus.
Messi’s teammates have rallied around their superstar captain after his disappointing performance against Iceland.
He is bearing the weight of expectations as Argentina seek a first World Cup trophy since 1986, desperate to crown his glittering career with a major international tournament success.
A defeat against the Luka Modric-led Croatians in Nizhny Novgorod could see Argentina, unthinkably, flirting with a first exit at the group stage since 2002.
“We are all with him, he knows that he can count on the support of all of us more than ever,” said Argentina striker Paulo Dybala of Messi.
“We are here to help him every moment, and of course we will be at his side.”
Croatia secured three points in a 2-0 win against Nigeria in their opening game but enter the match under a cloud.
AC Milan striker Nikola Kalinic was sent home from Russia for reportedly refusing to come on as a substitute, though coach Zlatko Dalic said the AC Milan man had a back injury.
France, who edged past Australia 2-1 courtesy of an Antoine Griezmann penalty and an own goal in their Group C opener, vowed to ramp up the intensity against Peru in Yekaterinburg.
“We took stock of what was done well or not so well and all agree that we will have to increase our physical intensity and improve our attitude in general,” said vice-captain and central defender Raphael Varane.
“Other teams (among the favorites) did not win or even lost. We won, but we know that there are things to improve on. We know what direction we need to go in.”
The defeat to France mean the Socceroos need a win against Christian Eriksen’s Denmark in Samara.
“We know (Eriksen) is a fantastic player and obviously he’s got a huge role to play for them,” said Australia captain Mile Jedinak.
“But we’re not trying to focus on that. We’ll definitely focus on them as whole and as a collective.”

Russia are celebrating after Wednesday’s results confirmed they have qualified for the knockout round for the first time since the Soviet era along with Uruguay, condemning Mohamed Salah’s Egypt and Saudi Arabia to an early exit.
Morocco will also be leaving Russia after the first round following their defeat to European champions Portugal, who are level with Spain on four points at the top of Group B.
Former England captain David Beckham has tipped England to play Argentina in the World Cup final after a positive start against Tunisia.
“I think obviously my choice would be England to win the competition, but that’s me being biased and passionate about my country,” he said.
And former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he believes the World Cup should return to England when Europe next gets its turn to host the tournament.
Blatter has arrived in Moscow to attend matches at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin despite being banned from the game for alleged corruption during his 17 years at the head of world football.
Away from the football, Burger King has apologized for an online ad offering burgers to Russian women who get impregnated by football players during the World Cup.
Burger King removed the ad and tried to make amends after a furor erupted on social media and in international media.
“We apologize for our statement. It turned out to be too offensive,” the company said.