'He's given everything' - England boss Southgate defends Kane from semi-final criticism

Harry Kane Gareth Southgate England World Cup 2018
The striker's performance in a 2-1 World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia received criticism, but his manager believes he did all he could

Gareth Southgate insists he could not have asked for more from captain Harry Kane during England's World Cup campaign, dismissing criticism of the Tottenham striker's performance in Wednesday's 2-1 semi-final defeat to Croatia.

Kane looks likely to finish as the World Cup's top scorer given he already has six goals and one more match to play, but his display against Croatia was not well received.

The striker struggled to make a telling impact up against Dejan Lovren and the rare opportunities he was presented with were wasted.

It was suggested to his manager that Kane was not entirely fit, but Southgate has no qualms with the effort from his captain in Russia.

"Well, I need to look back," Southgate told reporters in Moscow. "I think he's given everything for the team and there was a period of the game in the second half where we didn't have that controlled possession.

"The game became too end-to-end and we didn't build in the way we had been. Now is the time to be strong as a group and take the time to reflect on the performance a little bit more over the next couple of days.

"He's captained the team brilliantly throughout this tournament and I can't ask more of him as a captain or as a man over the last three weeks."

In the end, Southgate feels the extra experience of Croatia's "hardened warriors" made a telling difference, and he was very complimentary of Zlatko Dalic's men.

"It's impossible to say anything that will make them feel better at this moment," Southgate added.

"But I don't think when people look at the experience and the last 18 months that we were expected to be in the semi-finals of a World Cup.

"Once we were here, it was an opportunity to do something that only one team in our nation's history has ever done.

"We're one of only three teams ever to get to a World Cup semi-final. The players and all of the staff, they have to be proud. I don't think any of them could have given any more.

"We tried to freshen things up with the substitutions, others had run out of steam. That's the age of them as well, physically they are still maturing.

"Croatia have some hardened warriors that are mentally strong in their decision making and in their understanding of the matches, at times that came to the fore.

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"It looked at the least we would take the game beyond extra time, but great credit to them, they managed to produce the moments that won the game.

"To get through three extra times to get to the final tells you a lot about the team they have."