There are moments in your life which are so nightmarish you question if they really happened. The ones where your stomach turns in knots and you convince yourself life is about to rewind to play out what really happened.
For Harry Kane and many an England fan, this will be his penalty miss against France in their World Cup quarter-final loss on Saturday.
It seemed inconceivable that the Three Lions skipper would do anything other than draw his country level again at the back end of their impressive performance against the reigning champions. Penalties are but an exercise to him, one already buried earlier that evening, his opponent between the sticks in Hugo Lloris a friend as much as an adversary.
The odds looked in Kane’s favour, too – he had missed 10 penalties in his 12-season long career prior to his second on Saturday, and two had already come this term for Tottenham. Surely he wouldn’t and couldn’t fluff his lines again.
But he did. Kane spurned the chance to level the scores and England crashed out of what they will feel was a very winnable World Cup.
For the first time in his career, Kane will now have to bounce back from adversity of his own making.
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Of Kane’s now 11 penalty blunders, this was the only one which ended up costing Spurs or England. He would either make amends himself – usually with rebounds or later goals – or the miss would prove inconsequential to the game or their campaigns.
There also isn’t a comparable moment in which you can point to and say that Kane was truly at fault for his side’s failures, a notable setback (that isn’t related to injuries or fitness) which he has had to recover from. Tottenham and England have come to within inches of tangible glory in recent years but it’s hard to lay undoubted blame at Kane’s door.
The closest parallel is probably from the very beginning of Kane’s career. He made his Spurs debut back in 2011 in the second leg of a Europa League qualifier against Hearts with Harry Redknapp’s men already 5-0 up. He hit a weak penalty and the match finished 0-0, fans left completely unconvinced by the then 18-year-old.
It took Kane, then a scrawny teenager with little-to-no standout physical qualities, around three more years to improve himself to the required standard at Tottenham, though that was at least a natural progression at the start of his now storied journey. The football world knows how good he is now, but we haven’t seen him return from personal disappointment like this.
What will work in Kane’s favour is that while he is unproven at achieving redemption from fates akin to those of David Beckham or Wayne Rooney, he has a track record of breaking through career barriers.
It’s a point he hammered home in a short film regarding mental health to promote his foundation prior to the World Cup – he was deemed not good enough by Arsenal as a child, but has spent his life since working as hard and ‘going again’ to make his dreams a reality. He is now level with Rooney as England’s all-time leading scorer, almost a shoo-in to become the greatest marksman Tottenham and the Premier League have ever seen.
Beckham and Rooney were able to take back control of the narrative surrounding themselves and their careers following England disappointment and Kane obviously has the quality to do the same. He needs to if he’s to resurrect his national legacy.
He must now heed his own advice – “We go again, and work even harder.”