Harry Kane set to hit 50 caps for England with Wayne Rooney's record goals tally on the horizon

Striker has 32 goals in 49 appearances and is on course to become his country's most prolific marksman

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Gareth Southgate was citing his highlights of Harry Kane’s first 49 caps for England. The assumption might have been that he would start with the goals that rendered his captain only the second Englishman to win the World Cup’s Golden Boot. He did not.

“I remember being in a hotel and hearing he had scored. We weren’t able to see it but it was a brilliant moment for us all,” he said. Southgate was England Under-21 manager in 2015. Kane had gravitated into Roy Hodgson’s senior squad.

He struck 80 seconds into his debut, as a substitute against Lithuania, and Southgate, whose junior side had beaten Czech Republic 1-0 the same night, took an almost paternalistic pride in one of his protégés’ progress.

There will be a further indication of it on Sunday when Kane becomes the 62nd man to reach a half-century of caps for England.

Kane is climbing another list further and faster. Only six have more goals than him and Kane, who has found the net 27 times in his last 32 internationals, could end up as his country’s most prolific marksman. Wayne Rooney, with 53, leads the way, but Kane is only 21 behind.

“The goalscoring record is the really interesting one,” Southgate said. “His strike rate for us is phenomenal and he has time on his side to crack on and chase Wayne’s record which would be a remarkable feat, when you look at Sir Bobby [Charlton], Gary Lineker and Wayne.

"From his perspective, while the personal achievement is something he is driven towards, it is the team achievement. He is so focused on the team having success.”

Kane has helped inspire some collective feats. He captained the first England team in 28 years to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup. He came off the bench last month when, for only the second time, they beat the planet's top-ranked team, but they have never done so away from home.

Now they face a rematch with Belgium, probably requiring a second victory over Roberto Martinez's side to reach the Nations League semi-finals. Last month's defeat to Denmark undid much of that fine work.


Player ratings for England's win over Belgium


“We have got to beat Belgium,” Southgate said. “To go to Belgium and win is a difficult task but it is certainly not impossible. We proved that at Wembley.

"They have lost two games in 28 so they are a fantastic team and have proven it over a long period of time but our aim is to be the best team in the world. We have to hunt these teams down. We were able to do it at Wembley.”

Southgate struck a confident tone, citing England’s efforts at both ends of the pitch. They have only scored four goals in four Nations League matches since switching to 3-4-3 but he took solace in an improved defensive record.

“We are not fearful,” he said. “We have players who can hurt teams, who can score and create goals and we have only conceded two goals in nine games.

"The future is so exciting but we have to make sure we are getting results and progressing right now.”