Harry Kane. Getty Images

Gareth Southgate defended captain Harry Kane’s performance after England’s World Cup campaign came to an end with a 2-0 defeat to Belgium in the third-place play-off in Saint Petersburg.

Kane is set to finish the tournament in Russia with the Golden Boot after scoring six goals, which came in his first three World Cup games.

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However, he has failed to score in England’s last three matches, failing to register a single shot on target in those games, but Southgate leapt to his captain’s defence after the defeat to Belgium.

“Today is the seventh game in a short period of time, and we’ve had incredible physical demands and emotional demands on the least experienced team in the tournament,” Southgate said when put to him that Kane looked exhausted.

“It would be wrong to judge any player on today’s game, if their energy levels were short. I think he has captained the team exceptionally well, he has led the culture we are trying to create.

“And although we can talk about having a more comfortable route to the semi-final – and for sure we did – but we’ve had those routes in the past and not got to the point we have.

“I’m immensely proud of the players. All of them. And they should be proud of themselves because they’ve achieved an equal high in terms of tournament performance that any English team that’s had to come abroad for a tournament has achieved,” Southgate said.