England would not swap Kane for anyone - Southgate

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The Tottenham man has netted five in two games to lead the Golden Boot standings, to the delight of his Three Lions boss

Gareth Southgate lavished praise on hat-trick hero Harry Kane after England's 6-1 win over Panama and suggested that the striker would be given the opportunity to add to his World Cup goal tally against Belgium.

Two wins from two Group G games put England through to the last 16 in Russia and left Southgate with the option to rest key players in his side's final group game on Thursday.

But the Three Lions boss spoke repeatedly about the importance of harmony within his team and, though he didn't rule out changes in personnel against Roberto Martinez's side, he implied that the core of his winning team would remain intact.

Kane scored two first-half penalties before Ruben Loftus-Cheek's second-half shot clipped his heels on its way over Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and into the net, and Southgate told reporters he was relieved to see his captain net his third.

"I was pleased the captain got his hat-trick because it meant he had the hump less when I brought him off!" quipped Southgate. "I know the importance to him of scoring goals.

"He has started brilliantly. You can dismiss penalties as being easy but the length of time he had to wait before taking it and the number of distractions tells you a bit about the mental toughness that he's got.

"He's up at the top. We wouldn't swap him for anyone in terms of number nines. You know when he gets opportunities he's going to bury them, but important in that is the way he sacrifices himself for the team, holds the ball up and contributes to the overall game. That's important in the ethic of the team we're trying to create."

Jamie Vardy replaced Kane after 63 minutes while the likes of Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck looked on from the substitutes' bench, and Southgate said the players with less game time under their belts in Russia were in his thoughts.

"We've got to make sure that the players who haven't played as big a part feel valued," he said. "Their approach to training and the intensity of it meant that we were ready for this game. If that was to dip we'd be nowhere near as effective.

"Over the next 36 hours or so we've got to decide what our priority is. For me, the harmony of the group is very high on that list. I've got complete trust in the players.

"My thought is with the players who haven't played as much but I've got to consider everything before picking that team."

Looking ahead to England's next opponents, Southgate said that he had a good idea of what to expect from a Belgium team tipped to go a long way at the World Cup.

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"They have some outstanding individual players," he said. "They have a fairly clear pattern of play - I'm pretty sure they'll play three at the back.

"This is their moment as a team because they've been together for a long time, they have great experience from the last World Cup and the European Championship. I can't remember them having a better crop of players.

"They will feel that this is the time that they've got to deliver."

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