England v Belgium - Preview and possible lineups

England v Belgium - Preview and possible lineups

Belgium will face England in the 2018 World Cup third-place play-off fixtures at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

While France will compete for their second World Cup title and Croatia their first in the final on Sunday, England and Belgium must be content to battle it out for the consolation prize of third place; a game that England Manager Gareth Southgate says that his team will approach with pride. The Belgians grabbed an immediate lead through Thomas Meunier who netted the go-ahead goal inside the match's first five minutes, before doubling their lead in the game's final stretch through a late Eden Hazard strike.

"We are better than England", he told reporters at a press conference, as reported by Reuters. Against the very best teams, we've come up short.

They wanted to play the safe pass, while Belgium moved the ball from their defence to attack at a frightening pace, driven by the fantastic Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. Danny Rose and Phil Jones were liabilities defensively, but Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Eric Dier had good moments. Whether intentional or otherwise, England's defeat ultimately meant they faced Colombia, Sweden and Croatia in the knockout stages, while Belgium knocked out Japan and Brazil before coming unstuck against France. It is a style of football England will hope to adopt at the European Championships in 2020, but they're missing a genuine world class midfield player, or two.

In recent World Cup campaigns, the game usually produces a flurry of goals. Belgium's Romelu Lukaku is two goals behind Kane, but whether Belgium Manager Robert Martinez will choose to start Lukaku in the consolation game is unclear.

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Belgium's previous best finish at the World Cup was fourth, but the team outplayed England in the midfield to go one better this time.

Ahead of the game, Southgate said: "I think a physical part of that is going to have a huge bearing. To be able to finish third, the best finish for the Belgian national team, would be an achievement we salute more than individual awards".

Their best chance in the first half was a strike by Harry Kane that went wide in the 22nd minute. The counter attack builds up so nicely, but a Kevin De Bruyne backheel was timed poorly and reached England's defense.

"The lads couldn't have given any more". We had them on the ropes for the first half-hour of that and we just couldn't get a goal. For me, Belgium was the most consistently entertaining team at World Cup 2018, and I expect the Belgians will keep playing with that swashbuckling style. Belgium managed to eke out a win thanks to an early surge where they dominated the Englishmen like it was nobody's business. Harry Kane did not add to his total of six goals but after Romelu Lukaku failed to score it will take a hat-trick from Antoine Griezmann or Kylian Mbappe in the final to catch Kane as the tournament's top goalscorer.

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