London (AFP) – England captain Harry Kane says he is peaking at just the right time to win his battle with Italy’s “amazing” defensive warriors Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.
Kane will lead England’s bid to win their first major title since the 1966 World Cup when Gareth Southgate’s side face the Italians at Wembley.
After a slow start to the tournament, Kane has hit top form in the knockout stages and the Tottenham striker’s duel with Italy centre-backs Chiellini and Bonucci will be the key contest at Wembley.
Kane has scored four goals in his last three games, breaking his duck in the tournament against Germany in the last 16 before scoring twice against Ukraine in the quarter-finals.
The 27-year-old bagged England’s semi-final winner against Denmark when he alertly fired home the rebound after his penalty was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
Having finished as the Premier League’s top scorer last season and won the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot, Kane was expected to dominate the Euro from the start.
But he insisted it was more important to preserve his mental and physical energy for the business end of the tournament.
“Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have scored three or four goals in the group stage,” he said on Saturday.
“At the World Cup it was such an amazing start. Mentally I lost a bit towards the latter stages.
“It’s about staying in the moment, not getting carried away and knowing we’re on the right track. It’s worked out pretty well.”
While Kane is in form, Chiellini, 36, and Bonucci, 34, have been the unbreakable rocks at the heart of Italy’s defence.
– ‘Knocking down barriers’ –
The Juventus duo have been among the best defenders in the world for over a decade and Italy have conceded just three Euro goals thanks to their formidable presence.
Aided by Raheem Sterling and his fellow forwards, Kane is confident England can win the penalty area fight for supremacy.
“They are two amazing defenders. They have had great experience in big matches over their careers. I want to play against the best centre-backs in the world and those two are definitely up there,” Kane said.
“But it’s not about me. The game is about England v Italy and we have a great belief in the team.
“We have great strength in the squad and a lot can happen in a final and we need to make sure we’re on the right side of it.”
England’s historic run to their first European Championship final has set the nation into a frenzy.
With 60,000 fans set to back them at Wembley, while millions more watch on television, there is a danger the huge expectations on the England team might prove debilitating.
But Kane is adamant Southgate’s squad will embrace the pressure.
“To see the fans on the street like they have been and to see the reception we’ve had as we’ve pulled into the hotel here and as we left St George’s Park, it just shows us how big an occasion it is,” he said.
“Of course there’s an extra level of excitement and anticipation but that’s all part and parcel of playing in major football.
“A lot of us have played at the highest level in our club careers. It’s just about staying calm and as relaxed as you can.
“We’ve been knocking down barriers along the way but we started this tournament with an aim to win it and we’ve now got the opportunity.”