Belgium pips England to top spot in WCup Group G

Posted June 30, 2018

Having got this unusual game out of the way, both Belgium and England can now focus fully on going deep into the World Cup knock-out stages and their fresh legs could be crucial.

The match was far less dramatic than the day's earlier games, but the outcome still had consequences that could affect both teams as they look to continue their World Cup runs into the knockout round.

The Daily Telegraph chose to "look on the bright side" having avoided pre-tournament favourites Brazil in the quarter-finals but added some fans may question Southgate's decision to make wholesale changes to the starting line-up. If they lose then this game will be viewed as the night when vital momentum was lost. Southgate will have a fully fit squad from which to choose, including Dele Alli who has recovered from a thigh strain, and is likely to revert to the lineup that confronted Tunisia in their first game at the finals.

Resting some starters and with possibly more to be gained with a loss in the match than a win, England never attacked with a convincing effort, and the match ended at the 1-0 mark.

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Conor, 11, said: "If they'd had Harry Kane on we might have won it".

"We had a choice with our friendly matches to play teams who would be a bit easier, but we deliberately chose to play against top teams because we knew it would be better challenge".

Each manager exploited the luxury of resting key players for this game and despite the controversy it may generate, both Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate arguably have to play the long game in this World Cup. Of course, given how the smaller teams have performed with South Korea beating Germany and Iceland holding Argentina, one shouldn't get too excited of facing a "weaker team".

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"We know our squad inside out, where they are, the different strengths they have and problems they pose the opposition", said Southgate. "Colombians had bought up 75 per cent of the tickets, filling the place with a Latin American rhythm and an unceasing broiling racket, which reached a crescendo when they took the lead late in the second half".

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Russia's no-show against Uruguay, the first decent side it faced, made clear it wasn't unexpected world beaters.

If the match is a draw, with the two countries already joint on points, goals scored and goals conceded, it will come down to fair play. "It wouldn't authentic for what we've been trying to build for the last two years".

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Just short of 10 minutes of England's third group game had passed when Pickford made his first save of the tournament, doing just about enough to keep out a stinging shot from Youri Tielemans. "The lads coming in demonstrated to me that if he [Southgate] wants to change things, if he's up against things as the competition goes on, he's not going to be able to count on the likes of Fabian Delph, Loftus-Cheek".