CHANTILLY, France (AP) — Some of the continent’s top strikers are finding it tough at the low-scoring European Championship, stifled by so-called weaker teams employing defensive tactics to grind out points.
England striker Harry Kane might know this better than anyone.
The leading scorer in last season’s English Premier League with 25 goals for Tottenham, Kane didn’t score in the group stage and barely even had a sight of goal up against the deep, packed defenses of Russia, Wales and — as a second-half substitute — Slovakia.
Iceland is next up for England in the last 16 on Monday, and it could be more of the same.
“Every team in the Euros is a good, solid team, they have a good base and can defend and make it difficult for us,” Kane said Friday. “You see it at club level, too. There are teams who put in good performances to make it difficult for the big ones.
“That’s something we are going to have to deal with.”
The average of 1.92 goals per game in the group stage is the lowest at a European Championship since 1992. Kane is in good company in not scoring yet — Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller were expected to be among the top scorers in France but didn’t find the target in group play. France’s main striker, Olivier Giroud, has scored once.
The result for Kane was being substituted at halftime of England’s second game, against Wales, and then starting on the bench against Slovakia. He is battling with Jamie Vardy to start up front against Iceland in Nice, having arrived at the tournament as England’s first-choice striker.
Speaking at England’s training base in Chantilly, north of Paris, Kane rejected suggestions that he was tired, having played 63 games for club and country since the start of the season. He has barely had a break for two seasons, because he played for England in the under-21 European Championship last summer.
“I’m not tired,” Kane said. “I’ve had it before last year at under-21 Euros — people said the same thing, but I feel 100 percent fresh, ready.”
England captain Wayne Rooney feels for Kane. He has been in the same position for Manchester United, a lone striker up against ultra-defensive opposition and unable to find any room between center backs and deep-lying central midfielders.
“There’s no space,” Rooney said. “It is difficult to get touches of the ball, to get that yard to get your shot off. But I think it’s important to be patient. You don’t have to do everything when you get the ball.”
Kane has only scored one goal in his last seven matches for Tottenham and England. But he went the first seven games of the Premier League without a goal, and then couldn’t stop scoring.
“Harry knows he is a goal away from everything changing,” Rooney said. “He’s a special player, a natural goal-scorer, a great finisher. If he gets chances, he’ll score goals.”
England has scored three times at Euro 2016 — a free kick, a goal from a defensive error and then an injury-time winner.
“I think to be a bit more clinical in the final third, not just finishing but crosses, too,” Kane said. “But I don’t think we’re far away.”
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.