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.


UAE vs. Saudi Arabia friendly gives both chance to press reset button ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Updated 15 min 40 sec ago
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UAE vs. Saudi Arabia friendly gives both chance to press reset button ahead of World Cup qualifiers

  • New era for both the Whites and the Green Falcons after Asian Cup.
  • World Cup qualifiers start in September.

LONDON: That the UAE-Saudi Arabia clash today is a friendly is apt. With Bert van Marwijk now confirmed as the new UAE boss, and in the stands for the clash, the match will be a meeting of old mates.
The Dutchman memorably guided the Green Falcons to last year’s World Cup — their first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — before contract talks stalled and he left. Now, 18 months on from his exit, Saudi Arabia are again looking for another manager following Juan Antonio Pizzi’s departure after the Asian Cup. And for both sides there is a distinct feeling of limbo.
The Asian Cup promised much for Pizzi’s players. Two comfortable opening wins over North Korea and Lebanon were followed up with defeats to eventual winners Qatar and a second round exit at the hands of Japan. It was the opposite of how their World Cup went. While the team got better with every match in Russia, at the Asian Cup the Green Falcons’ form petered out and utimately they exited with a whimper.
This match is the perfect chance for Salem Al-Dawsari and Co. to recover the form they showed in the latter half of Pizzi’s reign with the World Cup qualifiers set to start in September.
For the UAE there is the same sense of ennui, even with Van Marwijk set to become the new boss. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the Whites played a brand of football that would have challenged a sleeping tablet as a cure for insomnia. Too defensive, too risk averse, it was ultimately no surprise when the hosts failed to win the Asian Cup on home soil at the start of the year.
They may have reached the semifinals, but the UAE failed to inspire confidence, and this clash offers the chance of a fresh start on and off the pitch.
The UAE’s “Golden Generation” ultimately failed to achieve World Cup qualification or Asian Cup success when at least one of them seemed, at one point, like a sure thing. The next year or two will likely see that stable of players slowly ushered out. However, the chance of an early sighting of the young guns that will replace them has been kicked into touch due to the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualification commitments of the UAE’s young players. Friday’s Arabian Gulf Cup final also means that interim coach Saleem Abdelrahman will not be able to call on the Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club and Al-Wahda.
Both teams will not be at full strength tonight and it will be hard to read anything into the result. But this match offers up a great chance to press the reset button ahead of World Cup qualifying later this year.