Harry Kane heroics lift England, favorites struggle over World Cup’s first week

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VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA – JUNE 18: Harry Kane of England celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between Tunisia and England at Volgograd Arena on June 18, 2018 in Volgograd, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

England is full of famous Harry’s, but it wasn’t Harry Potter, Harry Styles, or even Prince Harry that became the country’s most beloved son on Monday. That honor belonged to Harry Kane, who scored two goals to power his plucky English side past Tunisia in their FIFA World Cup opener.

An uncharacteristic optimism has befallen normally-jaded English soccer fans, who have seen squad after talented squad underwhelm at major international tournaments. There is a cautious hope that this team, brimming with young and hungry Premier League stars, can rise above the cycle of disappointment, and their 2-1 win furthered the cause for positivity.

Kane, a forward who plays his club soccer for the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur, got England off to a flying start in the 11th minute when he pounced on a rebound and finished with a simple tap-in. The mood was dampened before halftime though, after Tunisian midfielder Ferjani Sassi converted a penalty kick in the 35th minute.

It looked like England would trudge to a draw after failing to convert on a barrage of scoring chances. But just as fans started to resign themselves to the conclusion that this English team is doomed to continue a string of national soccer heartbreaks, a flicked-on corner kick in stoppage time found Kane all alone at the back post. He headed in the dramatic winner to spur mass celebrations among the throngs of fans watching in his home country.

This World Cup appears wide open after some of the other early results. Of the five pre-tournament betting favorites, only France won their opening match, barely defeating Australia with the help of a own goal from a wicked deflection. Brazil were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland. Spain were unable to outduel the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo in a 3-3 draw with Portugal. Defending champions Germany were stunned 1-0 by Mexico and their precocious winger Hirving “Chucky” Lozano.

The biggest shock, however, came from Iceland. The tiny island nation has a smaller population than Virginia Beach, but their team was unafraid in its first-ever World Cup match against mighty Argentina on Saturday. A stoic defensive performance, a historic goal from striker Alfred Finnbogason, and a missed penalty from Lionel Messi earned Iceland a deserved 1-1 draw. An incredible 99.6 percent of all people in Iceland who were watching television at the time were watching the match.

The second round of group stage matches began today with Russia defeating Egypt 3-1 and continues all week with three matches every day as the heavyweights look to bounce back. You can watch coverage of the FIFA World Cup on FOX 43.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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