England Under-21s striker Harry Kane could be forgiven for thinking the hard part is over.
The Young Lions came from behind to win the first leg of their UEFA European U21 Championship play-off tie against Croatia on Friday. Kane, for his part, hustled and bustled his way through a demanding encounter in Wolverhampton, scoring the equaliser and playing an influential role in a victory his manager, Gareth Southgate, said had tested his side "technically, tactically, psychologically and physically".
Kane, though, professes that even after that taxing assignment, even after nine straight competitive wins, after 13 months of qualifying, "the job is only half done". The Tottenham Hotspur FC man and his international team-mates go to Vinkovci for Tuesday's return leg with a 2-1 lead to defend, a slender advantage considering Croatia's away goal in England's West Midlands.
"We are feeling very confident, but we know the job isn't done yet because we have a tough game to come," Kane told UEFA.com. "The tie is definitely there for the taking. We're confident in our ability and know we're going to score goals. We're keeping our feet on the ground because Tuesday's game will be tough. We've got to keep moving the ball quicker, creating chances and hope we take them.
"We want to go away and win. We definitely want that goal away from home to cancel out theirs. We want to go away and play the way we can; I think if we play the way we did [on Friday] and create the same number of chances, we'll come away as winners."
Kane's effort – his eighth in all competitions this season – was just reward for England on Friday, adding substance to the style that they showed throughout; indeed, it is distinctive approach Southgate has been demanding from them through the campaign. Still, though, their consistency – they won nine of their ten games in Group 1 and conceded only two goals – will count for nothing should they err next time out. Succeed and a place in next summer's finals in the Czech Republic awaits.
"It's a huge prize but we have to focus on the performance on Tuesday, and dealing with everything, to have that opportunity," said Southgate, a former senior international with 57 caps to his name. "We can't even begin to think about it at the moment because we have a big game to get through. This group know that with the scoreline as it is, they know how they have to prepare and they know there's still a lot of work to do. Complacency won't be an issue; it will be how we deal with everything else. It's coping with the occasion that's most important."
While Southgate could be denied the injured Will Hughes and Michael Keane, his opposite number, Nenad Gracan, is without Dario Županić and Domagoj Pavičić due to suspension. Goalkeeper Dominik Livaković is upbeat, however. "I don't have the impression that England are that impressive, so there's no reason to fear them," he said. "We are better and we are going to the European championship ..." Jozo Šimunović and Toni Gorupec have been called up by Gracan.
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