england will face colombia in the round of 16 of the world cup after a spectacular goal by adnan januzaj ensured belgium finished top of group g.
That was illustrated by a largely lackluster and lifeless encounter in Kaliningrad that was settled by Januzaj’s goal six minutes after the break, the former Manchester United attacker cutting in before finishing with a left foot over the top. by jordan pickford.
Reading: England belgium world cup 2018
England, desperately missing absent captain and world cup top scorer harry kane, barely threatened although marcus rashford should have equalised, but belgium goalkeeper thibaut courtois deflected his shot after he ran away.
southgate must now reflect on england’s first defeat at this world cup as they prepare to face the dangerous colombians in moscow on tuesday at 19:00 bst, while belgium go to rostov to play japan on monday .
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england can now chart their course ahead
The preparation for this game was played out in the context of who would top the pack, with the suggestion that finishing second might provide an easier route than winning group g.
It was clear that three points were not the main priority for any of the coaches, and the changes occasionally threatened to reduce the game to a farce: the first half ended in a chorus of jeers.
If England beat Colombia, led by striker Radamel Falcao, there is a chance they will face Sweden or Switzerland.
But the South Americans will pose a real threat and only time will tell if England and Southgate will regret not trying harder for the greater glory of victory.
england licks without kane
southgate held kane for the bigger battles to come, but this worked, taking him down without threats with plenty of food for thought.
jamie vardy and rashford were tasked with attacking duties. Both worked hard, but England’s lack of penetration only emphasized their great confidence, some would say too much confidence, in the captain and the talisman.
kane is the tournament’s top scorer with five goals and has yet to benefit from a reliable supply line, two goals coming from corner kicks, two from penalties and another deflected off a ruben loftus-cheek shot to complete his hat-trick in the 6-1 victory against panama.
He is the central figure in England’s world cup ambitions, the leader on and off the pitch and a striker every defense in this tournament would be eager to face.
Southgate’s reluctance to throw Kane into action, even when England were losing and posing little danger, was perhaps an even greater indicator of how important he feels he will be in the knockout stage.
vardy and rashford did the best they could, and may make contributions later on, but toothless england showed here that they simply can’t do without kane.
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tough night for england substitutes
southgate gave several England team members who have been on the sidelines a chance to at least get their attention.
Eric Dier’s importance was underlined by his selection as captain in the absence of Kane and backup Jordan Henderson, but this was not a night he will look back on with satisfaction.
dier struggled, particularly in the first half, looking off the pace and giving away cheap possession. He did nothing to threaten Henderson’s status as Southgate’s main midfield pivot.
vardy and rashford didn’t do enough to endanger raheem sterling, despite the fact that he has gone 22 england games without scoring.
It was also a difficult night for starting goalkeeper Pickford, who was largely unemployed in the wins against Tunisia and Panama.
Pickford had only gotten the ball out of the net in those games, not having a chance with either goal, but here he looked a bit rusty in the ring and was lucky to get away with spilling the ball early on when gary cahill cleared michy batshuayi shot off the line.
It was their busiest game in the world cup so far, and southgate should hope it’s better for the experience.
cahill was solid while danny rose and trent alexander-arnold showed southgate can rely on them, but england’s first choice world cup line-up will still look familiar against colombia.
martínez’s belgium is a great threat
Martinez made the bizarre, though some would say brutally realistic, statement before kick-off that winning was not his priority in this final group stage match.
However, he was victorious to top the group and take on Japan in the round of 16, and some of his team’s flashes showed the strength he has at his disposal.
this was a belgian team without romelu lukaku, eden hazard, kevin de bruyne, toby alderweireld, jan vertonghen, axel witsel and dry mertens, to name just seven, in their starting lineup.
and yet when they really wanted to, they raised their game to a level beyond england.
if martinez can get this team onto the right field at the right time, this is a potentially world cup winning team.
learned a lot from the game – southgate
gareth southgate, england manager: “i thought the game was a really good test for us. we knew the level was going to be higher than we had been even with the changes in the teams.belgium had controlled possession in our back third and it was difficult for us to press, but in terms of chances we were pretty even.
“i think we’ve learned a lot from the game. it’ll be a good game to go and review. the goal was mid-term. we’ve got everyone on the field and they’re ready to go in, the ones who haven’t played before, and we’ve protected those that do.”
roberto martinez, coach of belgium: “we want everyone in belgium to be very, very proud of this team. all the players are eager to be on the field and we are eager to face anyone in front of us.”
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- Belgium have already won their last seven World Cup group stage matches. they had won just eight of their previous 24 at this stage of the competition.
- Belgium have won all three of their group stage games in consecutive world cup appearances, the first nation to do so since Argentina and the netherlands in 2010 and 2014.
- belgium is only the third team to have a 100% winning percentage in this world cup, after uruguay and croatia.
- this is the first world cup match that england did not score in that did not end 0-0 since losing 1-0 to portugal in 1986.
- england took 11 shots in this match but did not score. they also had 11 shots in their previous match against panama, scoring six times.
- adnan januzaj’s goal was the first for belgium in his ninth appearance for the national team.
- appearance of danny welbeck off the bench means england have used all 20 outfield players in the 2018 world cup.