England striker Marcus Rashford has revealed Harry Kane’s prowess in front of goal is driving him on to better things.
Rashford, who has 10 international goals, is likely to line up alongside Kane for the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria on Saturday as they aim to further strengthen their grip on Group A.
Captain Kane harbours an impressive scoring rate for his country, but is even more prolific in training.
And Rashford tries to compete with his team-mate in shooting drills to make himself a better player.
“We use each other’s strengths to make each other better and if you watch training, then you’d see how it all works,” he said.
“I could use Harry Kane as an example, he’s one of the best finishers that I’ve played with and whenever we do finishing, in my head, it’s about being as close to him as possible.
“So if he scores six, you want to score six, if he scores seven, you want to score eight.
“So little things like that are the bits that people never see, even though we’re fighting for the same position, or to be in the same team, we really do drive each other on.
“It’s very important that you have that sort of atmosphere within a team.”
Kane looks a good bet to break Wayne Rooney’s all-time record of 53 goals for England as he is on 22 and is only 26 years old.
The Tottenham player has a fixation with scoring goals and being the best he can and that is something Rashford wants to learn from.
“I think the initial start for Harry, at the beginning, he wasn’t looking at Wayne Rooney’s goalscoring record or maybe it was in the very back of his mind,” Rashford added.
“But he wanted to be the best of himself, and once you do that, that’s the time to… you can start to think about things like records and goals and stuff like that.
“But it’s a healthy thing to be around. You know, when someone has the determination that he has, the mindset, it’s 100 per cent positive for the squad and especially for young forwards like myself.”
While there is uncertainty about who takes penalties for Rashford’s club Manchester United, there is no doubt over who takes them for England, given Kane’s deadliness from 12 yards.
Rashford said: “Obviously here it’s a bit more simple because, like you say, Harry’s record is unbelievable and that’s a way for him to get his goals, and the players, the squad and the staff all support that.
“So, it’s a bit more of a simple topic here.”
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Wales manager Ryan Giggs hailed Gareth Bale after the Real Madrid star kept their Euro 2020 qualification hopes alive against Azerbaijan.
Bale struck six minutes from time – his 32nd goal for his country and his first in 10 months – to give Wales a 2-1 victory and lift them to within three points of Group E pacesetters Croatia and Hungary.
Anything but victory against Azerbaijan – ranked 109 in the world and 85 places below Wales – would have been a disaster for the Dragons’ hopes of qualification.
“Obviously Gareth has scored so many important goals for Wales over the years,” Giggs said.
“Usually when he scores he keeps scoring, so I was glad to see him score for Real Madrid last week.
“Just like the rest of the lads he showed great character, kept going to the end, I am really pleased for him.
“We were too hasty to get to the goal, too rushed. I’ve been in games like that before, you’re never sure whether to stick or twist. There weren’t enough players in good form in the first half.”
Wales held a fortuitous half-time lead through Pavlo Pashayev’s bizarre own goal.
The full-back was unaware that Bale’s deflected shot was spinning in his direction and he headed it past advancing goalkeeper Salahat Agayev.
But Azerbaijan equalised through Mahir Emreli after 58 minutes with Neil Taylor and Wayne Hennessey both culpable in a Welsh comedy of defensive errors.
Giggs said: “I wasn’t happy with the first half. We didn’t play well and we didn’t stick to the game plan.
“I knew 1-0 wouldn’t be good enough, I was frustrated. We had a lot of possession but we did not move the ball quick enough.
“We weren’t patient and that is what they are good at, sitting back in their shape, win the ball and sprint forward.”
But Giggs praised his side’s battling qualities, adding: “I am delighted with the three points, with the character we have shown.
“We always work hard and we will learn from it.
“We will enjoy this because it’s not easy to win points in this group.”
Azerbaijan remain without a point at the halfway stage of the group.
“It was a very intense match and an improved performance from us,” Azerbaijan manager Nikola Jurcevic said.
“We played against a strong opponent and we showed good organisation and fought very well and I can say I am very proud of my team.
“But we were unlucky with the goals we conceded in the first half and a few minutes before the end of the game.
“They were favourites for the game, but we were very close to getting a point.”
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France midfielder Blaise Matuidi believes the World Cup winners cannot look for excuses despite a growing number of absentees.
Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte has been sidelined by a knee injury and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba has pulled out with an ankle problem, while Tottenham’s Tanguy Ndombele and Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante were not considered for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers due to fitness concerns.
It should not, however, pose too much of a problem against Albania and Andorra.
“There are many injured players, it is not a very good period, but that does not have to be an excuse,” Matuidi told a press conference.
“We are lucky to have a huge pool, with a lot of high-quality players. There are important players who are absent but there are others who are here who have proved for their club that they can bring a lot.
“The 23 players who are here have to be competitive and we have to win both games.
“Playing against Albania is never easy either. we will do everything to win.”
Matuidi admitted he may have been premature in announcing last November he would retire from international football after the European Championship.
The Juventus midfielder will be 33 next summer but believes his fitness could allow him to continue.
“There is the luck factor, I have not had a big injury and I pay attention to my body,” he added.
“I feel really good right now, a little like the feeling of a second youth, and I do not set a limit as I love football so much.
“As long as my body will allow me I want to enjoy it to the fullest. I may have made a mistake by saying that I will stop after the Euros.”
Albania face a tough task at the Stade de France but midfielder Keidi Bare said they had to remain optimistic.
“I believe everything, because in football you can achieve everything, no matter who plays,” he told a press conference.
“However we must give our best and hope to get something. France are a very strong team, but we can try to get at least a draw.”
France are top of Group H on goal difference from Turkey and Iceland, with three wins from their four games so far.
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