Harry Kane’s relief was as clear as his joy after securing England a last-gasp victory in their World Cup opener against Tunisia.
Gareth Southgate’s men made an outstanding start to the Group G encounter in Volgograd, where the 24-year-old opened the scoring with his first major tournament goal.
But referee Wilmar Roldan controversially awarded a penalty that Ferjani Sassi converted and the video assistant referee then inexplicably overlooked Tunisia’s manhandling of Kane in the box.
Yet just as it looked set to end as a draw, the England captain nodded home to secure a 2-1 win that he hopes will make the “people in the pubs back home proud”.
“We are proud of each other,” Kane said after the Three Lions started a major tournament with a win for the first time since 2006.
“In a World Cup, you’re never sure how it’s going to go and in recent years the first games have always been difficult.
“It looked like it could be one of them nights again, but we’ve got great togetherness as I’ve said before.
“You’re always proud to see it come off in a game.
“We were talking to each other non-stop, getting each other through it. We never panicked, we never looked like conceding another, which was important, and then got we deserved at the end.”
Kane liked the way England flew out of the blocks at the Volgograd Arena, where they had to rely on character beyond their years.
“It goes to 1-1, momentum changes a bit, so I thought we recovered well from that,” he said.
“It is always in the back of your mind that it is going to be one of them days.
“The ball just wasn’t falling to our player at the right time, but that’s what the character is about.
“That’s why we work so hard to go to 90-plus minutes and thankfully we got one in the end.”
Kane was named man of the match for his display on a night when the lack of VAR was striking, particularly when the Tottenham striker was dragged down at corners by Sassi and Yassine Meriah.
“Maybe a bit disappointed by that,” he said. “Obviously when you look at the penalty they got… I’ve not seen it back, but on the pitch it looked quite soft.
“I guess that’s what VAR is there for, to look at them decisions. If they didn’t think it’s a penalty, we have to deal with that.
“For me, I struggled to get them off me. I tried to run at a few corners and just couldn’t move.
“I guess as players there’s nothing we can do about that. We just have to hope that officials are getting it right more often than not.”
And the officials were not the only irritant in Volgograd, where insects proved a nuisance throughout.
“There was a lot more than I first thought,” Kane added.
“We got told before that there was going to be quite a lot of flies and when we went out for the warm-up it was a lot more than we all kind of thought.
“We had a lot of bug spray on before the game, half-time, which was important because there was some of them in your eyes, some of them in your mouth.
“But I guess that’s part of just dealing whatever comes your way and the team coped with it well.”
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