Nations League victory would eclipse World Cup semi-final, says Englands Harry Kane – BBC Sport

Nations League victory would eclipse World Cup semi-final, says England\s Harry Kane - BBC Sport

HARRY KANE WELCOMES CALLUM HUDSON-ODOIS FLAIR TO ENGLAND SQUAD

England winning the Nations League would eclipse the achievement of reaching the 2018 World Cup semi-finals in Russia, says captain Harry Kane.

The Three Lions face the Netherlands in Junes Nations League last four, with the winners then meeting either Portugal or Switzerland in the final.

0:25 Harry Kane says a Nations League win would top last year's run to the World Cup semi-finals Harry Kane says a Nations League win would top last years run to the World Cup semi-finals Harry Kane believes 2019 will be even more successful than last year for England if they win the Nations League finals in June.

“To have a chance to win a trophy in an England shirt does not happen not very often,” said the Tottenham striker.

England must navigate tricky European Qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro before they take on the Netherlands in the Nations League, but Kane is in positive mood for what the future holds for their promising young squad.

England won the World Cup in 1966 – their only major international trophy – and have a chance of winning the first Nations League tournament after finishing top of a qualifying group that also included 2010 world champions Spain and 2018 runners-up Croatia.

Gareth Southgate defied the odds to guide his side to the semi-finals of the World Cup last summer but Kane feels securing silverware with success in the Nations League in Portugal would surpass 2018s achievements.

During the 2018 World Cup, England reached the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years, before losing 2-1 after extra-time to Croatia in the semi-finals.

Since Ive been with England, the atmosphere has been good, said Kane. [Jordan] Hendersons getting on with Raheem [Sterling], and [Kyle] Walker and Trent [Alexander-Arnold]. So, again, with Hendo and Raheem for example, theyve known each other a long time. Of course they want to beat each other, but theyre not going to let that get in the way of whats important this week, which is the international game.

Kane, who won the golden boot for being the tournaments top scorer with six goals, added: “Hopefully, we can win some silverware. Of course, 2018 was fantastic but for me, the main thing is the team and we want to win things. We want to make fans happy and be proud.

“People now expect us to do well and before the World Cup there was no expectation, so its great that weve turned that around.

Every top team is trying to improve and we saw some top nations at the World Cup, like France and Croatia, but we have to focus on ourselves. We know the chance to play a Euros where most of the games are at home is an amazing opportunity and you dont often get that in your career, so we will try to make the most of it.

“Were the only team from the World Cup semi-finals to have got through their Nations League group, and we had probably one of the hardest groups.

You dont really know until you look back on your career through the years and see when you were playing at your best. I feel each year Ive improved. This year Ive improved as well. Id like to think that, in a couple more years, Ill be in my prime. But, again, you dont really know.

“That was big for us, to prove that it wasnt just a one-off, that this team were really building for something special.”

Asked whether there was any way this year could top last summer, Kane said: Hopefully. Hopefully we can win some silverware. If we win the Nations League, 2019 will top it. I have said before, to have a chance to win a trophy in an England shirt does not come around very often.

Before England play the Nations League semi-finals, they have their first two 2020 European Championship qualifiers – against the Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday and then away in Montenegro on Monday, 25 March.

If you keep yourself in shape – Ronaldo has proven that, and Messi and players like that. Ive still got a little bit to go, 26 isnt too old. It feels old in this squad, but Id like to think that, a couple of years after that, Ill be in my prime.

Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, 18, is in the England squad, despite not starting a Premier League match and Kane has praised the player.

“He has been great over the last couple of days,” said Kane. “Were excited to have him. Everyone is fighting for places and he sees this as an opportunity for himself.”

On the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign to reach the finals, which England would largely play at Wembley, Kane added: I think we feel that expectation, where people now expect us to do well and I think before the World Cup there was no expectation.

The teenager has played 19 games for Chelsea this season, scoring five times, but his Premier League action has been restricted to six substitute appearances, totalling only 119 minutes of action.

England may have to face the Czechs at Wembley on Friday night without Marcus Rashford, whose ankle injury sustained in Manchester Uniteds FA Cup defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers forced him to miss training on Tuesday.

Hudson-Odoi was part of the England side that won the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 but had not represented the country at Under-21 level before being drafted into the full squad.

Kane and his Tottenham Hotspur team-mates will face Englands Manchester City players in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, while City are also battling with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.

He described his week as being “a crazy experience” but Kane has been impressed with the player after lining up against him in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup in January.

The England squad was split by big-club cliques between 1998 and 2004, when Liverpool and Manchester United players would try to avoid each other, but Kane says this generation can park their rivalries.

“We played against him in the cup and he put in a good performance – that was the first time Id seen him play. He looks sharp and hungry,” added Kane.

But the striker believes it can be bettered if England win their European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, and lift their first trophy since Le Tournoi in 1997.

“Callum has had a taste of cup competitions, a little bit in the Premier League and Im sure he wants to play and gain that experience. Everyone knows he is a fantastic player and Ive no doubt he has the ability to play at the highest level.”

Fridays match could also see an England debut for West Ham defensive midfielder Declan Rice, who opted to play for the Three Lions despite making three non-competitive appearances for the Republic of Ireland.

“Im sure it was a tough one for him, and Im sure he took the time to talk with his family and close friends,” said Kane of the 20-year-olds choice.

“The decision he made is one he thinks is best for his future. He will give everything for this country and thats what we want.

“The thing I like about him is, as a defensive midfielder, he looks to play forward as quickly as possible. Its easy to play side-to-side but with Declan his first thought is to go forward – Im a big fan of him.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Kane, who was born in London and has 35 caps for England, revealed he had been eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland also.

He said: “My nan and grandad were Irish on my dads side of the family so I had that decision, but it never came about as I started playing in the Premier League and the England call-up came not long after that.

“There were always rumours but I never said no to anyone. I dont know if they spoke to my agent but I always wanted to play for England and that was my dream. Thankfully that worked out.”

The 2020 European Championships will be held in 12 different countries, with Wembley hosting three group games, a last-16 tie, both semi-finals and the final.

“Its a great incentive and the opportunity to play in a European Championship where quite a few games are at Wembley is exciting and gives us a real hunger to qualify,” added Kane, whose England side will also play qualifying matches against Bulgaria and Kosovo.

“People expect us to qualify and they think its an easy group but its never that easy and we have to be professional. We always back ourselves but we still have to do it – its important we start well and then we can build on that.

“Its going to be a tough game against the Czech Republic. We have to get off to a good start and weve spoken about starting off the competition well. Their great strength is their unity, how they work without the ball.”

File photo dated 29-11-2018 of Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday March 19, 2018. Callum Hudson-Odoi was "shocked" when told he had won his first England call-up – but is determined to "make an i

England captain Harry Kane is looking forward to seeing the added “flair and flexibility” brought to the squad by newcomer Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The 18-year-old Chelsea winger was promoted from the under-21 squad on Monday as a replacement for the injured Luke Shaw.

Hudson-Odoi is yet to start a Premier League game for the Blues and has not been capped at an age group above England Under-19s.

But he will take his place in Gareth Southgates ranks for the Euro 2020 qualification double-header against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.

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