Belgium bests England to take top spot in Group G

Gareth Southgate

This will be the fourth meeting of the two nations in major tournaments.

And for once England went into the last game of the groups with no pressure on them - both sides were already through so there was no need to go to war.

As it stands - thanks to a few quirky results - one side of the draw appears considerably more hard.

The victor of Group G, either England or Belgium, faces a potential quarterfinal matchup with Brazil, and a semifinal matchup with either France, Portgual, Argentina or Uruguay. "But we are in the round of 16, out the group stages, which was the first objective for the team".

Belgium came close to a second goal in the final minutes when Jordan Pickford made a diving save to keep out a rasping Dries Mertens effort but by then both sides seemed to have accepted their lot and can now focus on the second round.

The two teams have had a relatively stress-free progression from Group G and been able to rotate their squad, but their potential rivals have not.

So basically, if the teams play tomorrow's game to benefit their own interests, we could be in for a game of anti-football, with both England and Belgium looking to lose - in other words, avoid scoring - while attempting to end up with more cards than the other team.

"We have qualified and that was the priority", Martínez told the media. We're sorry we didn't play like world champions. "We want to win".

"There are players on yellow cards". I don't think it would be professional of us to put those players at a risk of missing the knockout phase. Ironically what the Belgian forward felt afterwards is what most of us who had watched the game felt: a tinge of pain with a side order of embarrassment.

"We don't suffer for (the loss)", England coach Gareth Southgate said.

I know in some quarters that will be criticised but I am entirely comfortable with that.

Southgate appears to be gesturing towards saying yes. We had to do what we believed was the right thing.

The Belgian striker looked briefly annoyed at the moment, which sent fans on Twitter insane, but following the game the social media guru laughed at himself for the unfortunate event.

In addition, Southgate is likely to give a starting role to Marcus Rashford, instead of the rusty Raheem Sterling, and a sharp performance from the Manchester United striker against quality opposition could see him retain his place for the last-16 match.

For four years, these teams had planned and toiled to be at their best for the World Cup. With 5 goals Kane is just 1 goal behind Gary Linekar - to equal the record of most goals scored by an English player in a World Cup.

England nearly responded immediately, but Rashford missed a glorious chance after being sent clear by Jamie Vardy, though Courtois managed to keep him out with a finger-tip save. And both players will be keen to increase their tally tomorrow.

Belgium's Martinez was delighted with the win, saying it was impossible to plan the ideal scenario as the World Cup unfolds.

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