Published: Sat, June 30, 2018
Sports | By Phillip Butler

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

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

They sit 16th in the Federation Internationale de Football Association world rankings, just four places below England, and are a clear threat to their progress, but Southgate insists there was no easy option ahead of his team.

The downside came in the poor display from Eric Dier, whose pedestrian effort cemented Jordan Henderson's place as midfield anchorman while Phil Jones did nothing to suggest he would be a significant figure again. We don't like losing, we don't want to lose matches, but the primary objectives we wanted from the evening we've got.

The match was far less dramatic than the day's earlier games, but the outcome still had consequences that could affect both teams as they look to continue their World Cup runs into the knockout round.

Reflecting on the defeat Southgate added: "It was a pretty even game".

Among the Premier League stars on the national team rosters for this match are four of last season's top six goal scorers - England captainHarry Kane (Tottenham, second with 30 goals) and compatriots Jamie Vardy (Leicester City, fourth with 20 goals), and Raheem Sterling(Manchester City, fifth with 18 goals), and Belgium's Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United, sixth with 16 goals).

Yet what did we really learn?

The last time England and Belgium met at a World Cup, David Platt volleyed a famous extra-time victor to send Bobby Robson's side into the quarter-finals if Italia 90.

"At the moment we are qualified and I think that was the priority that we were chasing for", Martinez said. "Everyone knows the most important game is the knockout game". "I think we'd shown over the 120 minutes that we were the better team and we deserved to go through".

As expected both managers utilised their squads to the full - Belgium's Roberto Martinez switching nine players and Southgate bringing in eight from his reserves, a decision he had described as a "no brainer" in the circumstances. Of course, given how the smaller teams have performed with South Korea beating Germany and Iceland holding Argentina, one shouldn't get too excited of facing a "weaker team".

"Not that England have lost tonight but that there were players in that Belgium second XI that would be in our first XI", he told ITV.

After crushing Hungary 4-0 in the last 16, Belgians felt they had one hand on the trophy but unfancied Wales had other ideas and sent them packing 3-1 in the quarter-final.

"The knockout game is the biggest game for a decade, so we had to make sure our key players were preserved", Southgate said.

As the minutes ticked away the players slowed to a walking pace in a farcical end to the match, with both sides settling for the status quo. It felt like a proper World Cup match in the stands, even if it was a odd affair on it, with two of the best benches in World Cup history. "It just wouldn't be authentic for what we've been trying to build for the last two years". "Maybe then", said the Belgium coach, "Platt's goal would have been a little bit of a memory for everyone".

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