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England vs Belgium (2018 FIFA World Cup)

29 Juin 2018

Although Southgate has stated his intention to win tonight's game against Belgium and take what comes, Belgium's Roberto Martinez had a decidedly more realistic outlook.

England manager Gareth Southgate is poised to give Eric Dier his first start in this World Cup, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek who is a booking away from suspension and Dele Alli who suffered a muscle problem against Tunisia are unlikely to feature against Belgium.

Neither England nor Belgium would ever publicly admit to trying to lose but the prize for doing so was obvious: avoid big guns Brazil, Argentina, France and Portugal until the final.

"Suddenly winning the group looked a very palatable option for the English".

"Belgium have a lot of players with a lot of quality and the game was decided by a piece of great quality".

They then played Germany in the semis and, in all honesty, Pies' memory gets a bit hazy after that.

Against England, the team operated on the idea that winning was not necessarily important because they were already progressed to the knockout stages, but they should still strive to win.

What makes the matchup particularly intriguing is the fact that both England and Belgium head into the game tied on points and with identical goal differences, having each scored eight goals and conceded two. Players need to have energy in the tank to win a World Cup, and Southgate is banking on his squad being fitter and fresher after being rested in Kaliningrad.

One video shows a group of supporters jumping on board an Arriva bus and dancing in front of it, following England's Group H defeat to Belgium. Neither team is a lock to win its next game, of course, but it's easy to see why England won't be that disheartened by its loss.

As expected, England will make some changes without affecting the spine of the side.

However, the defending champions crashed out in calamitous fashion, while the other finalist from four years ago barely scraped it into the next round.

But in Belgium they face the world´s third-ranked side, and a squad loaded with world-class talent such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. I can't imagine a situation where I stand in front of the group of players I have got and start talking to them about anything else.

"Colombia have got some outstanding individuals, but I believe it's a game we can win".

Even if neither side wanted to win Thursday's game, that didn't stop the contest from producing a moment of excellence courtesy of Belgium's Adnan Januzaj. "But what that means for the next round, we don't really know", said Southgate.

When I was in the GB Women's football team at the 2012 Olympics it was obvious who was in the first XI and who was making up the numbers. The former Manchester United winger scored the victor early in the second half with a lovely skill move and finish, as the Red Devils remained flawless with nine points from three matches.

England vs Belgium (2018 FIFA World Cup)