Match No. 47 : England (0) vs Belgium(1)
Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad, Russia
England qualified as runners-up in Group G and booked a World Cup last-16 date with Colombia as Adnan Januzaj earned a 1-0 win for Belgium on a curious night in Kaliningrad.
With qualification to the knockout stage already assured, two second-string sides laboured in a low-key encounter where three points to seal top spot – and a seemingly tougher route through the tournament – appeared a dubious prize.
A superior disciplinary record had meant stalemate was always likely to see Gareth Southgate’s men finish at the summit but though Belgium racked up further bookings, they found the back of the net through Januzaj’s fine 51st-minute strike.
Belgium had the better amount of possession than their opponents(53%) and they created the better chances as well as they hit 14 shots on the England goal, of which 4 of them hit the target. While England had some good moments though, but they failed to create any better chance of means. They hit 11 shots, only 2 of them hitting the target.
10: Off the line! A chipped cross causes all sorts of problems for Pickford, who isn’t quite able to collect the ball inside the six-yard box. It somehow comes free and falls to Batshuayi, who pokes it towards goal but is denied by a last-ditch clearance from Cahill.
19: It’s taken just 19 minutes for the first yellow card to be shown, and it’s gone to Tielemans. The midfielder sticks out a foot and cynically trips Rose, leaving the referee with no choice but to go to his pocket.
35: Decent chance for Loftus-Cheek! The cross from the corner is hit well by Alexander-Arnold and picks out Loftus-Cheek, who shrugs off his marker before sending a close-range header a yard or two wide of the near post.
46: England have made one substitution during the break, with Stones making way for Maguire.
51: GOAL! Januzaj makes it 1-0 to Belgium! It’s a fantastic strike from the former Manchester United man, who skips into the penalty area, cuts onto his left foot and curls a brilliant shot past the outstretched limbs of Pickford.
66: What a chance for Rashford to equalise! All sorts of space opens up for the youngster as the Belgium defence are caught sleeping, allowing him to burst into the box. He then gets a shot away from close range but has it palmed wide of the far post by Courtois.
74: Belgium have made their first change of the night, with Vermaelen making way for Kompany, who comes on to make his first appearance at this World Cup.
79: England have made an attacking alteration, with Welbeck coming on to replace Alexander-Arnold. It looks as if Rashford is going to operate as a wing-back for the remainder of the game.
83: Big chance for Welbeck! England keep pushing forward as they enjoy a decent spell of possession, and it results in a corner over on the left flank. The ball is fired into the box and bounces around dangerously before a great strike from Welbeck is blocked by Fellaini.
86: Januzaj receives a rousing round of applause from the Belgium fans as he makes way for Mertens.
Marcus Rashford (**): Marcus Rashford had England’s best chance to reply, but Thibaut Courtois made a fine save to deny the Manchester United striker, who was deputising for rested Golden Boot leader Harry Kane.
Adnan Januzj (***): Januzaj’s moment of magic was enough to secure maximum points for Belgium, the winger cutting in off the right flank to whip a delightful strike across Jordan Pickford.
Player Ratings (***- Exceeded Expectation, ** – Met Expectation, * – Didn’t meet the expectation):
Outstanding Player: Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Trent Alexander-Arnold deserves credit on his World Cup debut, even if his performance level dipped, and Danny Rose staked a claim but in a much-changed England side, Ruben Loftus-Cheek gets the nod. He headed wide from a corner, made a couple of promising runs and continued showing for the ball when Belgium’s grip tightened in the second half.
England: A largely second string side did well on a few occasions tonight, but overall they lacked the attacking fluidity needed to get the better of Belgium.
Belgium: Belgium created chances and got many opportunities to convert them, but it was only some scrappy England defending that didn’t let them stretch their margin of victory.
Viewer Rating: *
Both teams weren’t at their best and the Januzaj’s strike was enough to see Belgium claim the victory. The game lacked the spark and that culminated an overall drab game.
Match Implication: England will now face Colombia in Moscow on Tuesday – Sweden or Switzerland looming in the quarter-finals if they can clear that hurdle – while Belgium tackle Japan in the top half of a draw where heavyweights Brazil, France, Argentina, Uruguay and Portugal still lurk.
Until then however, thank you for joining us – and have a good day!