“I felt maybe in Russia I started on fire, scored loads of goals, then maybe didn’t have my best performances in the most important games: the quarters and the semi-finals,” Harry Kane explained after a goalless Euro 2020 group stage.
“So, coming into this, physically, I wanted to make sure I was peaking at the right time and obviously we won’t know until Tuesday night if that’s the case, but that’s the way I feel it’s going.”
Two games and three goals later, England are in the semi-finals and Kane has just produced the performance of the round in the last eight, according to Opta’s player index.
Kane’s performances at this tournament initially stood in stark contrast to his early outings at the 2018 World Cup.
He had five goals through two matches in Russia; it took the England captain three appearances to reach five shots this time around.
Only one of those efforts in the Euro 2020 group stage hit the target, while Kane created just a single chance despite too often being stationed outside of the box. The opening game against Croatia saw the striker take only two touches inside the area.
Kane was right, though; those disappointing displays were not entirely out of keeping with the way he finished the World Cup.
The Tottenham forward played 300 minutes across games against Sweden, Croatia and Belgium. He had just five touches in the opposition box, five shots and none on target, only in position for chances worth 0.27 expected goals (xG) combined.
Kane ended the tournament with the Golden Boot but had not scored from open play in the knockout stage. Indeed, three of his six goals came from the penalty spot.
Vitally for England, ahead of a mammoth semi-final against Denmark at Wembley, Kane is now coming on strong – exactly as he planned.
Although there were still a meagre four touches in the opposition area as Ukraine were swatted aside in Rome on Saturday, two of those saw Kane find the net.
Fed by Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw, his four attempts tallied 1.08 xG – Kane’s highest total in a major tournament match since his hat-trick against Panama, which included two penalties.
There was a late goal against Germany but only in the quarter-final did the mooted Manchester City target really look himself.
Three shots on target more than doubled his tally for the tournament, the third an outrageous left-footed volley that would have sealed a memorable perfect hat-trick had Georgi Bushchan not pushed the ball wide for a corner from which Jordan Henderson headed in.
That strike spoke of a player suddenly performing with supreme confidence.
Kane now ranks second for non-penalty goals (three – as many as he mustered in Russia, of course) and xG (2.94).
Only two shy of joint-leaders Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick – each eliminated on five goals – do not rule out another Golden Boot.
Such an achievement would take him beyond Gary Lineker (10) in terms of tournament goals, an England record that would also give them every chance of bringing the trophy home next weekend.