Spurs boss Antonio Conte backs ‘very strong’ Harry Kane to recover from his haunting moment at the Roberto Baggio World Cup
THE heartbreaking memories of team-mate Roberto Baggio will have returned for Antonio Conte as he watched Harry Kane inflate his World Cup penalty.
Kane, who is usually so lethal from 12 yards out, looked shocked after hurling a penalty down row Z in England’s 2-1 quarter-final defeat by France 16 days ago.
Conte, who was part of the Azzurri side that lost to Brazil on penalties in the 1994 World Cup final, must have felt eerily familiar to Conte, watching from his home in Italy.
On that day, it was his Juventus teammate Baggio who was the poor soul to bat from 12 yards in one of the most iconic tournament moments of all time.
It was so cruel for the ponytailed playmaker, but Baggio responded with back-to-back Serie A titles over the next two years at Juve and AC Milan.
Now it’s Kane’s turn to prove his mental toughness by answering for Spurs – and Conte has no doubt his star forward can pull it off.
Recalling his old mucker Baggio, the 53-year-old Tottenham boss said: “He was my team-mate. I certainly remember very well how he lived that moment.
“I saw a documentary recently and he spoke about this punishment.
“It was incredible for him to get the ball over the goal. We’re talking about a real penalty specialist.
“But this is another example of the best players taking responsibility and when you take responsibility you can miss penalties.
“I didn’t miss the penalty against Brazil because I didn’t play! But I’ve seen key players like Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and now Harry miss important penalties.
“It’s normal. It’s unpredictable because usually when players like Harry, Baggio and other key players go to penalties, they’re likely to score and there’s not a one percent chance of missing, but less.
“But it happened. You have to get it out of your head and start over.”
Watching Kane’s misery was a “really weird” experience for Conte because two of his oldest players went head-to-head – twice.
Spurs skipper Hugo Lloris was in goal for the French and didn’t even come close to taking Kane’s first penalty, which leveled the score at 1-1 in the second half.
But the Les Bleus record-breaking player didn’t need to get close to the second try as he crossed the bar by some margin.
Lloris and Kane saw each other for the first time since yesterday when the stopper returned to practice.
The losing finalist will be on the bench at Brentford today while backup keeper Fraser Forster gets the nod between the sticks.
However, Conte is certain there will be no tension between Lloris, 35, and Kane.
He explained: “Impossible. I have a group of really good guys.
“I’m sure Hugo was very happy on the one hand, but on the other hand he was really sorry.
“If you play at this level, you have to be a strong person. Harry is a strong person.”
“I’m sure of that, because we’re talking about two really good, sensible players here.
“Your goalkeeper and your forward, twice against each other, was really strange.
“But then I said, ‘OK, what happened, happened’. I enjoyed the game. It was one of the best games of the World Cup.”
It would be understandable if Kane was even a little traumatized by his absence.
It’s all ifs, buts and maybes, but had he converted and England found a winner, many thought this could really be their year, ending Kane’s trophy hoodoo for good.
But Conte felt there was no need to have a comforting conversation with the 29-year-old given Kane’s strength of character.
The Italian explained: “When I was a player, negative situations happened.
“It’s not that important to find people who say, ‘Oh, don’t worry.’
“If you play at this level, you have to be a strong person.
“Harry is a strong person. As a player, I was a strong person.
“It’s better for me not to speak, not to try to justify myself. We’re talking about an important player and they know how to react to that.”
Actions speak louder than words for strong players.
And with Kane in Spurs’ last net SIX Boxing Day clashes, expect him to take action again today.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6989539/tottenham-kane-conte-baggio-world-cup-penalty/ Spurs boss Antonio Conte backs ‘very strong’ Harry Kane to recover from his haunting moment at the Roberto Baggio World Cup