Belgium beats England 1-0, moves into tougher side of draw

by Dwayne Torres June 29, 2018, 14:50
Belgium beats England 1-0, moves into tougher side of draw

Such was the curious conclusion to the group stage at the World Cup on Thursday.

Before the tournament started, winning the group would have been the priority for both England and Belgium, as the runners-up were expected to find themselves on the same side of the draw as Germany and Argentina. But that might not turn out to be the desirable outcome since the victory diverted Belgium onto the tougher potential path to the final.

After Japan comes Brazil. The last-16 ties start Saturday, with France taking on Argentina in Kazan and Uruguay facing Cristiano Ronaldo´s Portugal in Sochi.

"I don't think you can plan the ideal scenario", Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said. "You can not plan the ideal scenario, you've seen big nations already eliminated", said the Spaniard. 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. Belgium made nine changes and still won.

"It would have been very different if Harry Kane had not scored in the last minute against Tunisia [England's opening 2-1 win] - then Platt's goal might have been a bit more of a memory for everyone".

Southgate was adamant nothing other than three points against Belgium has been discussed, insisting his side are prepared for the prospect of facing more hard opponents, having beaten Panama and Tunisia so far in Russian Federation.

In the other Group G game, Tunisia, although eliminated, got its first win at a World Cup in 40 years, over Panama.

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"We have to develop a squad that embodies a lot of positivity and teamwork and also make sure everyone feels included", said the Red Devils' coach.

"If you start thinking about who you could get, making predictions can be a little bit hard". Sometimes those decisions will be criticised and I understand that.

Southgate ensured every outfield player got a run out in the group stage, but the decision not to bring on Golden Boot leader Kane when chasing the match was striking as a draw would have seen them top the group on fair play. The leading scorer in Russian Federation with five goals watched the match from the bench.

Unlike Southgate, the former Everton and Wigan manager said he was approaching Thursday´s game with one eye firmly on the knockout rounds. That is the reality, we have put ourselves in this situation, we wanted to qualify and we have done that.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made an early save on a shot from Youri Tielemans.

Within minutes, the Belgians again stamped their seriousness to get on the front foot in a goal-mouth scramble that ended with Gary Cahill clearing Michy Batshuayi's strike off the line.

Sports data company Gracenote has given England a 24 percent chance of reaching the semifinals should they win the group, which increases to 35 percent should England finish second. Picking up possession on the edge of the penalty area, he shifted the ball around Danny Rose and curled it into the corner of the net in the 51st minute.

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