Harry Kane will likely come home from the World Cup with the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and a burnished reputation as a feared forward.
Had Kane added to his six goals in Russia with either of his back-to-back chances in the second half against Croatia on Wednesday, when England was dominating and led 1-0, he could yet be lifting the trophy on Sunday.
Or the header in stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes when the score was 1-1 and a goal would likely have brought England back to the Luzhniki Stadium for the final against France.
Rising high at the back post to meet another precise free kick from Kieran Trippier, Kane misconnected and the ball bounced wide of the goal.
“It’s been great to get to this stage but we wanted to keep going. We wanted to win it all,” Kane said. “It hurts. I don’t know what else to say. It just hurts.”
When Kane got his best chance in the 30th minute against Croatia, his first shot was saved by goalkeeper Danijel Subasic. The ball rebounded almost out of the play, then sat up for Kane to take another shot from less than two yards. The ball hit the post, ricocheted off Subasic and somehow looped up to safety.
Kane would not get another such opportunity with the ball at his feet. And Croatia would never let England get so close again.
Mario Mandzukic shot past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the 109th minute and Croatia closed out a 2-1 victory to reach its first World Cup final.
It meant another World Cup semifinal heartbreaker for England, only this time the game was under control before it was lost.
In 1990, three years before Kane was born, England also fell short at the semifinal stage with a team that exceeded expectations and won the adulation of fans at home with a beloved center forward.
History in Turin 28 years ago had its echo in Moscow on Wednesday.
Back then, a powerful West Germany team edged England in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw, and lifted the trophy days later.
At this year’s World Cup, teams can pay a heavy price for not getting a second goal to reward itself for a dominating period of play.
England learned that in its opening game against Tunisia. An exhilarating first half-hour in Volgograd reaped only a single goal from Kane and it needed the Tottenham forward to save the team in stoppage time with a header after the North Africans had leveled with a first-half penalty.
“We worked so hard. The fans were amazing,” Kane said. “I’m sure we lacked in some areas, there are things we could’ve done better.
“It’s going to hurt for a while, of course, but we can hold our heads up high.”
More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup
Source: Economic Times