Nowadays, there is not a lot of expectation from England fans coming into a major tournament. Most will be happy to see the country make it out of their group, although at times even that has been a struggle. However, if there was one thing that the supporters did expect, it was that Harry Kane would increase his status in world football - and he has certainly done that inside two games, perhaps to the surprise of some football betting enthusiasts.
153 minutes into his first World Cup, the Tottenham centre forward has five goals to his name. Yes, five. He currently leads the way in the Golden Boot market and has helped fire England to six points and qualification into the knockout rounds.
Events that have so far unfolded for Gareth Southgate’s men could not have been better. With England on top of their group, they go into the final, deciding match against Belgium having already secured their place in the round of 16.
Although Southgate will want to keep the momentum up with another win, it is not detrimental to the squad’s progression should they draw or lose. In the end, should they make it to the true business end of the competition, they will have to beat the best to become the best.
Kane has, quite obviously, been a pivotal player for England so far in this World Cup. While his involvement in the build-up play is not as polished as perhaps Southgate would want, no one can fault his prolific scoring rate and the ability to find the back of the net - even when he’s not trying to.
Such is his effectiveness in the final third, Kane has had five shots on-target in the two games and has scored five times. At no point has a shot on-target been saved by the opposition goalkeeper. While he might not get chance after chance, he does, somehow, find a way to get that ball across the sacred line in England’s favour.
At this moment in time, the Englishman is 13/8 to finish as the World Cup’s top goalscorer with Ladbrokes, with rival Cristiano Ronaldo not far behind with odds being offered at 4/1 for him to take the esteemed honour.
What has been pleasing not only for the England fans but for the tournament itself, is that Kane has not been fazed by the occasion. There have been plenty of Three Lions players previous that have been overwhelmed by the stage on which they play every four years and have barely shown 1/10th of what they are truly capable of on the pitch. That, or the manager doesn't’ have a clue about a working formation.
But Kane has acted differently. His mentality has been ice cool and focused on the job at hand. He is not a player who is likely to get carried away and has shown he can be relied on in front of goal. Tottenham’s star striker has been a breath of fresh air for Southgate and has taken the captaincy in his stride. Not many recent England players have shown the remarkable performances Kane has in these opening two matches, which is a great testament to him.
With the way Southgate has England set up, it makes it perfect for players to get in-behind the opposition’s defence - either through Dele Alli or Jesse Lingard - and find Kane, who is usually ready in position, waiting for the ball to be squared to him.
With this newfound freedom of expression on the pitch, it allows the forwards to interchange positions and become more immersed into the game. Kane is the target man and focal point of this Three Lions team, but he has, occasionally, been dropping deeper to allow other runners to stretch the defence which allows him the space he needs to operate in.
When a player of Kane’s magnitude shows he can deliver on the biggest stage of all, there will always be transfer gossip around them - even if they have just signed a new contract until 2023. Real Madrid are known admirers of the North London striker and have previously expressed an interest. While it is unlikely that Kane would push for a move this summer, he is priced at 5/1 with Paddy Power to move to Los Blancos.
There is still a long way to go in this tournament and England might get knocked out in the next round, but there’s also every chance that they continue with the way they have been playing and enjoy themselves on the pitch. If they can do that, and keep Kane fit and firing, he might well just surprise every football fan in the world and win the Golden Boot.