World Cup 2018: Harry Kane's hat-trick against Panama a delicious mix of attention to detail, talent and luck

The Tottenham striker now leads the race for the World Cup golden boot

Ed Malyon
Sports Editor
Sunday 24 June 2018 14:10
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Fans celebrate England World Cup goal at Isle of Wight festival

Harry Kane's work with Alan Russell, England's striking coach, is so impressive that the 37-year-old uses videos of the Tottenham man's connection with the ball to show his other clients.

The follow-through from Kane when he strikes the ball stays low, the arc of his leg is straight like a bullet and he generates just the right amount of lift and power. His aim is exceptional, you will note he often finds the very corners of the net, testing the extremities and making it impossible for a goalkeeper to save.

All of which was fundamentally irrelevant when the ball clipped his heels and the Spurs man wheeled away to celebrate his hat-trick against Panama on Sunday afternoon in sweltering Nizhny Novgorod , a third goal he knew nothing about but where he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

But that is also just so very Harry Kane.

One Spanish coach remarked of Kane that he "doesn't look like a crack until you watch him," a suggestion that he appears ungainly, or not like the polished Adonis-like athlete that many of the 21st-century superstars are. What he is, though, is pure instinct in a footballer.

One of the reasons some successful goalscorers struggle when they move into retirement gigs in television punditry is that their entire game is predicated on instinctive decisions and actions.

When they take a step back and try to explain what has happened and why it is an unnatural thing because, in their mind, it is all so apparent. These players spend their careers just being in the right place via a combination of reading the game superbly and knowing the right thing to do in a microsecond. Kane is like that, a player reminiscent of Ruud van Nistelrooy or Alan Shearer for his propensity for simply being where the ball is about to fall and putting it in the net, but he is also much more than that.

The England captain also works relentlessly on his game, as evidenced by his sessions with coach Russell. The addition of a striking coach to the England camp is a fascinating detail from Gareth Southgate, who has looked to gain every minute advantage possible - 'marginal gains' is a somewhat tainted term these days - ranging from set-piece routines that have paid dividends already to specialised coaches.

Southgate hasn't been shy to borrow ideas from other sports and has travelled the world eager to learn ahead of this World Cup. He wanted to give a squad that was never going to be the most-talented group in Russia every conceivable edge he could find on their opponents.

Against a team as poor (and violent) as Panama it is important not to read too much into the scoreline but what we saw from Kane was everything he is about. The first two goals were penalties that allowed him to once again show off that striking technique that Russell has made into a learning resource, his third was a combination of being in the right place at the right time and a slice of luck, which every good striker needs but also believes that they earn.

Kane leads the World Cup goalscoring charts and there is a chance that this summer is a transformational one for his career and indeed his life if it catapults him to superstardom on a global stage.

If he does it has come in the same way as this hat-trick, through a combination of a striker's instinct, flawless technique, hard work on the training field and, the hardest one to master, a little good fortune.

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