FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Southgate hails brilliant Kane as England all but seals place in Qatar

England manager Gareth Southgate hailed a brilliant performance by captain Harry Kane as the striker claimed a first-half hat-trick in a 5-0 demolition of Albania at Wembley on Friday.

Kane scored with an 18th-minute header, then lashed in a left-footed shot and a right-footed scissor kick to register his fourth treble for his country.

In doing so Kane moved to 44 goals and level with Jimmy Greaves in fourth place on England’s all-time scoring list and become the first England player for more than 100 years to twice score more than 10 goals for his country in a calendar year.

Only Gary Lineker (48), Bobby Charlton (49) and Wayne Rooney (53) are ahead of the 28-year-old who, barring injury, looks set to become his country’s highest-ever goalscorer.

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“I thought Harry gave a brilliant centre forward’s performance – held the ball up, played other people in. His all-round game was excellent,” said Southgate, whose side needs a draw away to San Marino on Monday to confirm top spot in Group I and a place at next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.

Kane has come under scrutiny this season due to his mediocre form for Tottenham Hotspur. He has managed only one Premier League goal and has lacked sharpness and spark since his hoped-for move to Manchester City failed to come to fruition.

But against an obliging Albania defence he produced a devastating demonstration of his prowess.

“Whenever I get chances I feel like I’m going to score. I could probably have had six on another night,” Kane, who was substituted just past the hour mark, said.

“We were looking to be ruthless all around the pitch, not just in the box or the finishing. We wanted to make it a tough night for them to show the country and the world what we are capable of and I think we did that.

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“Whenever I score I seem to be sharp, whenever I don’t I’m not sharp anymore. That is part and parcel of being a striker. The most important thing is we are moving forward as a team.”

England’s momentum towards the Qatar finals had slowed somewhat after a draw away to Poland and at home to Hungary had opened the door slightly for the Poles in the group.

But it answered Southgate’s call to play on the front foot from the first whistle against Albania with a swashbuckling first-half display that the visitor could not handle.

“The first half was fantastic, as well as we’ve played for a long time. It was hard to maintain that,” Southgate said.

“We’re best when we have an edge. We didn’t produce what we should against Hungary but we had a game tonight that could put us on the verge of qualification for the World Cup,” he added.

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