Why Harry Kane Squaring It To Raheem Sterling At The 2018 World Cup Wouldn't Have Mattered
Two years have passed since England's heartbreaking elimination to Croatia at the 2018 World Cup, and many Three Lions fans still wince when they think of that fateful evening.
Kieran Trippier's opening free-kick inside five minutes had supporters inside the Luzhniki Stadium and across the globe thinking, just maybe, football was coming home.
Less than 30 minutes later, the perfect opportunity to double the lead appeared as Jesse Lingard slipped the ball into his captain's feet. To his right was Raheem Sterling galloping into space, with Danijel Subasic leaving a free net as he raced towards Kane.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward had banged goals in for fun prior to and during this tournament and the entire country would have bet their houses on the ball crossing the line somehow.
A 2-0 lead would have emphatically put England in the driver's seat and likely cemented Gareth Southgate's status as a national hero.
We all know what happened. Kane chose to ignore his teammate and went for glory himself (a player of his talents had every right to). Subasic saved the initial shot as well as the rebound from an incredibly tight angle. England's chance to double their lead had slipped away, and they paid the price.
Croatia ended up advancing after a 2-1 victory with Mario Mandzukic's extra time strike piercing the heart of a nation. While the previous 30 days had seen the country unite and roar England to victory - the immediate aftermath saw a forensic search into what went wrong.
What was the key to England's defeat? It was deemed to be Kane's "selfishness". Social media went into a frenzy, with countless memes showing how the country would looked if "Kane had squared it to Sterling."
The reality is, the world would look exactly the same - because the goal would have been disallowed anyway. England would still go on to lose and the country would still collectively spend that Wednesday evening in despair.
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Chances are you have had a debate about a little piece of technology called VAR this season. Video Assistant Referee has become such a dominant topic across the footballing world that it's easy to forget it was used in Russia. In addition to that, and you may have to whisper it, it actually worked quite well.
As a result, it is clear to see in the image below that Kane's shoulder means he would have been judged as offside.
As heartbreaking as it seems, perhaps we all need to let it go.
Kane himself admitted months later that the miss "hurt" him after a scintillating month saw him pick up the Golden Boot with six goals in six games.
"I've always said as a striker whenever you miss a chance you obviously have to forget about it as quickly as possible during the game and be ready for the next one - but it hurts," he told the Evening Standard.
"Obviously with any big game that you lose, you always think about what you could have done better and there's not many games bigger than a World Cup semi-final.
"Of course I don't think about it as much anymore but I'm just trying to focus on each game as they come along."
England are arguably in a better position than this time two years ago and true international glory could be on the horizon.
A crop of fresh talent has emerged and Southgate has begun to blood them in at the expense of more experienced names.
It remains to be seen if football will truly ever come home. But it is definitely time to finally leave the memories of 2018 behind.
Featured Image Credit: ITV & PA Images
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