By Simon Evans
BURTON ON TRENT, England (Reuters) – England head to the World Cup with a youthful squad and lowered expectations from the public, but captain Harry Kane still believes the team is capable of returning from Russia as champions.
Manager Gareth Southgate has picked a relatively inexperienced group of players for the tournament where they will face Tunisia, Belgium and Panama in Group G.
England have not won a senior international tournament since 1966 and the pressure that comes from high expectation has hampered them in recent competitions but nonetheless Kane thinks a triumph is possible.
“I believe we can win it. Anyone can. I can’t say we’re not going to win it, because we could. I want to win everything I do. It’s my mind-set. So do the players,” he said.
“That’s what we’re going to try and do. There are some really god teams in the World Cup, but it’s worth fighting for, those dreams of lifting it. We’re going to fight and give everything we’ve got,” added the Tottenham Hotspur forward.
At 24, Kane will be England’s youngest World Cup captain. After having his role formally confirmed by Southgate, he conceded he had thought about the prospect of raising the trophy in Moscow on July 15.
“Of course you think about it. It’s impossible not to, or to dream about it. It’s the World Cup, the biggest competition in the world. It’s a dream to be playing in it. It’ll be hard, a tough job, but we’re excited to be there and want to get out there,” he said.
While talk of winning the tournament may raise some eyebrows and could be seen as unnecessarily raising hopes, Kane says England should not be afraid of showing confidence.
“I feel like the mentality, maybe… we’re a bit afraid to say we want to win stuff because we’re afraid of the fans’ or media’s reaction. We go into our shells. But I want us not to be afraid to say we want to win it,” he said.
“We have to be brave. Whether we go out at the group stage or the semi-final, it’s the same. You don’t win the World Cup. We discuss as players and say we shouldn’t have any fear. We want to win it, we’ll go there and do our best to achieve that.”
With a young side, England are not among the favourites, but Kane said that should not count against their chances.
“We’re not going to be favourites to win it. We know that. But look at this season — no one thought Liverpool would get to the Champions League final,” he said.
“Look at (Manchester) United in the (Alex) Ferguson days, with a young team, dominating the Premier League for years.
“It’s not really an excuse being young. It could be a good thing. I believe we can win it. That’s what we’ve got to try and do. Anything else is not good enough, really.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis)