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Harry Kane to miss England vs Brazil after ankle injury

Harry Kane of England talks to Gareth Southgate, Manager of England men's senior team, during a training session at St George's Park on March 20, 2024 in Burton upon Trent, England

Harry Kane is expected to sit out England’s friendly against Brazil on Saturday night, giving manager Gareth Southgate the chance to ramp up the auditions to be the striker’s deputy at this summer’s European Championship.

England captain Kane reported for international duty with an ankle injury he suffered with Bayern Munich and it is expected he will be rested for the visit of Brazil in the hope of facing Belgium in the second friendly on Tuesday night.

That means Southgate will choose between Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and Brentford’s Ivan Toney to stand in for Kane as the pair attempt to book their place on the plane for the Euros.

Southgate did not rule out taking both Watkins and Toney as part of his 23-man squad to Germany in the summer, but it is more likely the pair are fighting for one place as Kane’s deputy.

Only Erling Haaland has scored more Premier League goals than Watkins, who has netted 16 times this season, with the 28-year-old also registering 10 top-flight assists.

Watkins has scored in two of his last three England appearances, having netted three times in nine appearances in total.

Ollie Watkins of England looks on prior to a training session at St Georges Park on March 20, 2024 in Burton-upon-Trent, England
Ollie Watkins' form for Villa this season has been outstanding - Getty Images/Michael Regan

Toney has earned an England recall following his eight-month ban for breaches of the FA’s betting rules, scoring four goals in 10 games form Brentford since his comeback. It is almost a year to the day since the 28-year-old’s one and only England appearance to date, against Ukraine when he replaced Kane as a substitute.

On the subject of his strikers and how many he plans to take to the Euros, Southgate said: “We have still got to work out whether we take two out-and-out nines or three and we have got other players in those attacking areas that can play as a nine. [Jarrod] Bowen has done that, [Anthony] Gordon has done that, [Jude] Bellingham has almost done that as well. So we have to work out what the right balance is further down the line. But we thought we should include Ollie and Ivan in particular and keep them feeling part of that group. They both deserve it in different ways. Ollie is having an outstanding season with Aston Villa and is a player in excellent form, and I have to say Unai [Emery] has done a brilliant job with Villa. He’s a player that’s benefited from that work.”

On Toney’s return to the squad, Southgate added: “He’s got super quality. I think the audacious half-volley at Arsenal was an example of what he’s capable of producing really. He plays with tremendous self-belief, great presence, technically a good finisher. The goal he scored at Spurs, you can often see forwards in one-on-one situations with the goalkeeper and you’re not sure. I was sitting in the stadium thinking this is going in, there’s no question. He’s a very good finisher. He’s a slightly different profile to Ollie and Harry really, but he does have that ability to link the game as well as finish.”

Ivan Toney of England trains during England training session at St Georges Park on March 20, 2024 in Burton-upon-Trent, England
Since returning from suspension, Ivan Toney has hit the ground running at Brentford - Getty Images/James Baylis

Other than auditioning Watkins and Toney to be Kane’s deputy at the Euros, Southgate has decisions to make in midfield. This week, during training, he has looked at Manchester City’s Phil Foden in a more traditional midfield role with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.

Foden has played the majority of his football for England from either the right or left of a front three, but he has performed so well for City that manager Pep Guardiola described him as the best player in the Premier League, currently.

“I think he’s in outstanding form,” said Southgate. “He looks like he’s grown in terms of his own belief. Sometimes I think for a player of his talent, he’s not perhaps as confident as people might imagine. But he’s playing with that swagger now.

“He’s been able to step up when some others have been out of the team and fulfilled the key role. Our front three in the last few games of the World Cup was Foden, Kane, [Bukayo] Saka. He’s played our last five matches as well in this [season]. In March, he missed a game because he had his appendix out, there wasn’t much chance we could play him in that one. He’s got a lot of caps with us. We know the talent. There’s never been any doubt in our mind about the quality of the player and what he can be capable of. But I do think he has taken an even bigger step forward in the last few months.”

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