Southgate hails Kane’s ‘strength’ after breaking England goal record

Gareth Southgate praised Harry Kane’s mental strength after he broke England’s all-time goal record with the crucial strike in Thursday’s 2-1 Euro 2024 qualifier win over Italy.

Captain Kane stroked home his 54th international goal from the penalty spot to move ahead of Wayne Rooney and help England win a Group C in Naples over the European champions.

The 29-year-old had been level with Rooney after missing a penalty in England’s quarterfinal defeat by France at the World Cup in December.

“To break the record in the manner he did give the recent history was an indication of his strength of character. I couldn’t be happier for him,” Southgate told reporters.

“To do it as quickly as he has as well, he still has a lot of his career to go, is an incredible achievement.

“The players gave him a brilliant reception afterward and I think that was a response to the record and what he’s had to recover from.”

Kane’s goal came towards the end of an impressive first-half performance which would have put the game to bed had Jack Grealish not missed a glaring chance from close range when set up by the Tottenham striker.

In the end, England had to hold out as Italy pulled a goal back through debutant Mateo Retegui and Luke Shaw was sent off in the 80th minute following two quick-fire yellow cards.

“We showed two sides without a doubt. We had great control from the back in the first half… frankly we should have had the game buried, it should have been 3-0 at halftime,” added Southgate, whose team faces Ukraine on Sunday.

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“We conceded an inferior goal, several errors in the lead up to it, and then the whole emotion of evening changes.

“In the end, they can reference something that they’ve had to grind and dig in away from home, which is hugely essential… but equally we’d prefer more of the first half than the second.

“This will be a fantastic result only if we win on Sunday.”

Italy coach Roberto Mancini was left to rue a poor first-half effort which cost his team a chance at a result, but he was encouraged by what he saw during the Azzurri’s second-half performance.

“We had a tremendous second half. We observed the real team present, which squeezed them and prevented them from breathing “”Mancini” remarked.

“We could have prevented the two goals we gave up. Due to diversion, the first objective was achieved. We didn’t allow a shot against a team that was down to 10 players until the 80th minute of the second half.”

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