THE heartbreaking memories of team-mate Roberto Baggio will have come flooding back for Antonio Conte when watching Harry Kane balloon his World Cup penalty.
Harry Kane missed a second penalty as England crashed out of the World Cup vs France but Tottenham boss Antonio Conte is backing him to bounce back[/caption]
Antonio Conte saw a haunting similarity between Harry Kane’s miss and then-Italy team-mate Roberto Baggio’s infamous 1994 attempt[/caption]
Antonio Conte is adamant Harry Kane will bounce back like Roberto Baggio[/caption]
Watching on from his home in Italy, it must have felt hauntingly familiar to Conte, who was part of the Azzurri squad that lost to Brazil on a shootout in the 1994 World Cup final.
That day it was his Juventus team-mate Baggio who was the poor soul to whack it over from 12 yards in one of the most iconic tournament moments of all time.
It was so cruel on the pony-tailed playmaker but Baggio responded with back-to-back Serie A titles in the next two years at Juve and AC Milan.
Now it is Kane’s turn to prove his mental toughness by responding for Spurs — and Conte has no doubt his star striker can do it.
Recalling his old mucker Baggio, the Tottenham boss, 53, said: “He was my team-mate. For sure, I remember very well the way he lived that moment.
“I watched a documentary recently and he spoke about this penalty.
“It was incredible for him to put the ball outside the goal. We are talking about a real penalty specialist.
“But this is another example that the best players take the 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 have seen important players like Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and now Harry miss important penalties.
“This is normal. It’s unpredictable because usually when players like Harry, Baggio and other important players, they go to the penalty, probably they are going to score and there is not one per cent chance to miss but less.
“But it happened. You have to put it outside of your mind and restart.”
Watching Kane’s misery was a “really strange” experience for Conte because it saw two of his most senior players go head to head — twice.
Spurs skipper Hugo Lloris was in goal for the French and got nowhere near Kane’s first spot-kick, which levelled the scores at 1-1 in the second half.
But Les Bleus’ record appearance-maker did not have to get close to the second effort as it cleared the crossbar by some distance.
Lloris and Kane saw each other for the first time since then yesterday as the stopper returned to training.
The defeated finalist will be on the bench today at Brentford, with back-up keeper Fraser Forster getting the nod in between the sticks.
Yet Conte is certain there will be no tension between Lloris, 35, and Kane.
He declared: “Impossible. I have a group of really good guys.
“I am sure Hugo on one side was really happy but on the other side was really sorry.
“When you play at this level you have to be a strong person. Harry is a strong person.”
“I am sure about this because we’re talking about two really good, sensible players.
“Your keeper and your striker, one against the other, twice, 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 were even a little traumatised by his miss.
It is all ifs, buts and maybes but had he converted it and had England found a winner, then many felt this really could be their year, which would have finally ended Kane’s trophy hoodoo.
But Conte felt there was no need to have a consoling chat with the 29-year-old due to Kane’s strength of character.
The Italian explained: “When I was a player, negative situations happened.
“It’s not so important to find people to tell you, ‘Oh, don’t worry’.
“When you play at this level you have to be a strong person.
“Harry is a strong person. I was a strong person when I was a player.
“For me, it’s better not to speak, not to try to justify. We are talking about an important player and they know the way to respond.”
For strong players, actions clearly speak louder than words.
And with Kane netting in Spurs’ last SIX Boxing Day clashes, expect him to take action again today.