Soccer-I feel as good as I have all season, says England's Kane

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group D - England v Scotland - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - June 18, 2021 England's Harry Kane reacts Pool via REUTERS/Frank Augstein

LONDON (Reuters) - England's struggling striker Harry Kane insists he has no fitness problems despite a difficult start to the Euro 2020 campaign in which manager Gareth Southgate has twice taken off his talisman when he has shown signs of flagging.

The England captain was replaced by Marcus Rashford in Friday's goalless Group D draw against Scotland at Wembley because Southgate wanted more energy in attack but Kane has assured fans he is not suffering from any injury.

"Gareth is within his rights to make the changes he thinks are best for the team," Kane, who managed only 19 touches in the Scotland game, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“What we’ve learned over past tournaments is about trying to peak at the right time. The best time to be peaking is in the knockout stages and hopefully kick on from there."

England have had a muted start to the Euros after scraping a 1-0 win in their opener over Croatia, who beat England in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals in Russia, and failing to break down a dogged Scotland side in front of the home fans at Wembley.

"Maybe in Russia there were times, towards the quarter- and semi-final, when I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be," the 27-year-old Kane added. "In the end we didn’t get to where we wanted to go, maybe partly for that reason."

"It’s about managing the squad, making sure everyone is feeling as fit and sharp as possible. In my case, it was a tough couple of games (Croatia and Scotland) and it’s about making sure I’m right for the rest of them.

"I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t feel physically I wasn’t up to it. I felt going into those games as good as I’ve felt all season, if I’m honest."

Asked if a desire to leave his club Tottenham Hotspur had affected his performances for the national team, he replied: "Absolutely not. All my focus is on how I can help this team and how we can be successful in this tournament.

"I understand from a media point of view there is speculation but I am fully focused on the job here."

England, who have four points from two games, must beat group leaders the Czech Republic at Wembley on Tuesday to qualify for the last 16 in top spot. Kane believes that while they have been solid at the back they can improve up front.

"We all pride ourselves on not conceding, from front to back, and now I feel we can get better in the attacking third and be a bit more fluid and a bit more free and create a few more chances. Then we can be a strong team," he said.

(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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