World Cup: Kane injury scare shows England can’t get ahead of themselves
Harry Kane injured his right ankle during Monday's match with Iran (Getty)

The news coming out of the England camp today was hugely positive for Gareth Southgate and his staff. Jordan Pickford, speaking from the team’s Al Wakrah training base, confirmed that Harry Kane was “fine” and trained with his team-mates ahead of Friday’s meeting with the US.

For 24 hours, however, England supporters — and Southgate — held their breath. Reports emerged on Tuesday evening that Kane was to undergo a scan on his right ankle after going down gripping his right boot in pain having been caught in a heavy challenge during Monday’s 6-2 win over Iran.

Kane played on until the 75th minute but was seen leaving the Khalifa International stadium with a slight limp and his right ankle lightly strapped, both manager and player played down the injury in the immediate aftermath.

Whether the scan was simply precautionary, as the England captain is believed to have performed the standard suite of matchday+1 light training on Tuesday with the rest of those who featured in the Group B opener, it was nevertheless an almighty scare for England.

Kane may not have featured amongst the goals against Iran but still played an integral part in the impressive triumph that kick-started the national team’s World Cup campaign. Losing the talismanic captain may have mentally impacted the players just as much as physically. The possibility of Kane not being available for the US match will have been a concern, albeit not overly damaging.

Wales’s draw with the US means that England are out on their own on three points in the group and it would now take a dramatic turn of events for Southgate’s side to fail to progress into the knockout rounds. In their 1-1 draw the US showed they are full of energy but can come unstuck in either penalty area. Kane being absent for the match with Gregg Berhalter’s team would have been far from terminal but it does show that England can’t get ahead of themselves.

The FA have remained tight-lipped about Kane’s situation, although Southgate will be asked about it during Thursday’s pre-match press briefing, and yet behind the scenes they will have been sweating even more so in the Doha heat.

Reports suggest Kane went for a scan on his right ankle (Getty)

The prospect of Kane being sidelined, from games and training, during the tournament will have been a worry for Southgate. The 29-year-old does have a history with ankle injuries, particularly between 2016-19 when he endured five lay-offs with ligament damage, but recent work with a private physiotherapist appeared to make him more resilient.

England's Plan B could be tested

If Kane’s involvement on Friday was in doubt then the spotlight would have switched to Callum Wilson, who was a surprise call-up by Southgate for his 26-man squad having not featured for the national team in three years. It would have been likely that Southgate would have called on the Newcastle United forward, demonstrating his faith in his pre-tournament decision-making, ahead of Marcus Rashford despite the Manchester United attacker having scored from the bench against Iran.

Maybe it is too strong to say that England rely on Kane’s presence, but there is no doubt that his absence would be keenly felt. In England’s past two tournaments the expectation on Kane to provide the goals needed to progress has been overwhelming, that weight has been lessened by goals now being spread around the team.

I think he is good, probably just a little bit sore,” Pickford said of Kane on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m sure he is fine, he was out on the grass with us today which is good. He is our captain.

Should Kane need to be removed from the starting XI for the US match it would likely be the only change that Southgate makes to the lineup. England played on the front foot against Iran — with the manager opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation and using Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling alongside Kane with Mason Mount behind and Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham forming a two-man central midfield — and it brought rewards.

There would be little requirement to change tact at the Al Bayt stadium on Friday. England’s four-man defence was barely tested against Iran, despite the concession of two goals, one of which was a penalty, however Harry Maguire did leave the pitch having felt unwell.

The sight of Rashford, Wilson, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish all emerging from the substitutes bench signalled that England have the type of players in reserve that can both move the team through a gear or two in the latter stages when required and also see a game through when comfort has been established.

Southgate has the talent at his disposal and will finalise his lineup over the next 24 hours as England look to make it two wins from two games. Having Kane lead them out will only provide a boost.

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