Belgium v England Match Report:
Belgium made it two wins from two games against England at this edition of the World Cup. Before the trip to Russia, the Red Devils had only beaten England once and that was 82 years ago. But this is a different Belgian team than the one that last played England in 2012 and their more experienced “Golden Generation” of players showed class and their superiority over Gareth Southgate’s young team.
And it didn’t take long for Roberto Martinez’s men to get on the scoreboard. With just four minutes on the clock, Chadli found himself on the end of through ball from Lukaku which tore open the English defence. Chadli put a in a low cross from the left toward Meunier in the six yard area, who got in front of Danny Rose to poke one past Pickford with his shin.
After that, England enjoyed the majority of possession but really did nothing to trouble Courtois. Belgian, on the other hand, looked dangerous every time they won back possession and pushed forward, and could have been two or three up by the break. England needed their captain to get more into the game but Kane was very quiet. He did find himself involved in England’s best chance of the second half in the 23rd minute, but his shot was weak and wide. He really should have done better after Sterling did so well to take down a long ball and square a nice pass to him in space and at the edge of the box. That was the closest England came and the first half finished with Belgium one up.
Whatever Southgate had said to his players at the break seemed to work. His team started with much more intent in the second half, pushing forward and high up the pitch in search of an equalizer. They piled on the pressure for 20 to 25 minutes and came close on several occasions, with one effort cleared off the line. But that was as close as England would come to a goal.
Of course playing so high up the pitch always was going to leave them exposed to the Belgian counter attack, and Martinez’s men also had their fair share of chances when they intercepted England in their own third and pushed forward quickly on the counter with the likes of De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku leading the charge.
And in the 82nd minute, it was through De Bruyne and Hazard that Belgium found their second goal. De Bruyne collected the ball in midfield and burst forward, drawing in three or four English defenders. This of course opened up space for Hazard, for whom De Bruyne slotted a through ball. Hazard did well to shrug off the challenge of Maguire to leave himself one on one with Pickford. Calm and collected, the Chelsea man picked his spot and drove the ball with ease passed Pickford into the bottom corner. England really had nothing to give after that and the game finished 2-0.
Belgium head home with the bronze medals deservedly around their necks. The third place finish is their best ever at a World Cup, surpassing their fourth place finish in 1986. England meanwhile will be disappointed, but can only take their hats off to a Belgian side that were far better on the day. But a fourth place finish is nothing to be laughed at for Southgate’s young side, who can go home with their heads held high.
Belgium v England live feed:
Belgium v England match preview:
For the first time since 2002, two teams face each other twice at the same tournament, with Belgium taking on England for the bronze medal. And while the game may have an exhibition feel, both teams will want to end the tournament on a high, so we can expect to see two lineups more resembling the first-choice team than when the teams met in the group stages more than two weeks ago.
Belgium were the victors that day, recording their first win over the Three Lions in 82 years, and only the second in their history. Having come back from a 2-0 deficit against Japan in the last 16 to win 3-2 and beating Brazil 2-1 in the quarter finals, the Red Devils arguably had a more difficult road than England to the semifinal, in which they lost to France 1-0.
The so-called 'Golden Generation' of Belgian football have been deemed world beaters for a while now, and will be gutted to have let the opportunity slip to reach the final. But Roberto Martinez will look to pick his players up for today’s clash, as they will no doubt be aware that a win today against England would give Belgium their best ever World Cup finish, surpassing the achievement of 1986 when they finished fourth.
England also have something to play for after their heart-breaking 2-1 defeat to Croatia in the semifinal, and could record their best finish since 1966, when they won the tournament. This is one of the youngest ever England teams at a World Cup and the future looks bright for Gareth Southgate’s men. This young and relatively inexperienced team have helped to restore a level of pride and optimism amongst supporters that have hasn’t been felt in years, and win or lose today, they will no doubt be going home to a hero’s welcome.
There may be one trophy on the England flight home however: with six goals Harry Kane is ahead in the race for the Golden Boot and, if he wins it, would be the first Englishman to do so since Gary Lineker in 1986. His closest contender for the prize is his opponent today, Roman Lukaku, who has four goals and will be looking to add an unlikely three goals to his tally to steal the Boot from under the nose of the Tottenham player.