By Sportswriter Paul Giblin MOSCOW
Russia (Xinhua) -- Both England and
Belgium are expected to make changes to their starting lineups
for their final World Cup Group G match in Kaliningrad on
Both sides have
already ensured progression to the next round, and both coaches
have said they want to win the game despite the possibility of
an easier quarterfinal tie for the side finishing second.
Level on points,
goal difference and goals scored, England currently top Group G
thanks to having been shown one fewer yellow card than Belgium
in their games against Tunisia and Panama, but with no amnesty
on yellow cards until the semifinals, it’s highly unlikely
either side will go actively looking for them in order to help
their cause for second place.
Romelu Lukaku is an injury doubt after missing training on
Monday and Tuesday after picking up a knock against Tunisia.
Martinez is likely to rest Lukaku even if he is fit to play,
explaining that the Manchester United forward knows the team is
more important than individual accolades such as the Golden
Other key players
such as defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen could
also be rested, meaning they may miss the chance to go up
against club teammate Harry Kane, and England coach Gareth
Southgate is sending mixed messages over whether or not the
striker, who has scored five goals so far in Russia, will start.
“He is the captain
and he knows he will be judged on how far we go as a team. He
wants to contribute to a winning team and he knows it is not as
satisfying if you are a player scoring goals and the team does
not win,” Southgate told Talksport on Tuesday.
A more likely
scenario would be for Kane to start and then be replaced by
Jamie Vardy in the second half, but there will be changes
elsewhere, with Gary Cahill coming in at center-back, Danny Rose
starting at left-back and Fabian Delph making an appearance in
midfield before a 48-hour round-trip to England to attend the
birth of his third child.
Dele Alli could also
make a return to action after missing the Panama match with a
slight thigh strain, but with little pressure to secure a result
against Belgium, he may be limited to an appearance off the
Thursday’s Group G
and H ties to confirm second round draw
By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua)
-- The draw for the last 16 of the
2018 World Cup will be completed after the final matches in
Groups G and H on Thursday, with the pairings still to be
Although England and
Belgium are both assured of qualification from Group C ahead of
their clash in Kaliningrad, the group winner is yet to be
decided, with England currently topping the group on fair play
points with one yellow card less than Belgium.
While there is
little advantage in topping the group with regards to the
possible opponent in the second round, it has been suggested
that with a quarterfinal against Brazil or Germany perhaps in
store for the group winner, it may be better to finish second.
However, coaches and
players from both sides insist they will be looking for a win in
order to maintain morale and momentum.
Southgate and Roberto Martinez will nevertheless make changes to
their starting lineups in order to rest key players and ensure
other squad members maintain match fitness and feel involved.
quarterfinal rival will be clearer after Wednesday’s games in
Groups E and F.
The other match in
Group G sees the already eliminated pair of Tunisia and Panama
look to restore some pride after defeats in their opening two
Group H is more
evenly balanced, with three sides playing for two places,
although Japan and Senegal, on four points each, have an
advantage over Colombia, who only have three.
A point for group
leaders Japan against a disappointing Poland side who have
already been eliminated will be enough to make the Samurai Blue
the only Asian representatives in the last 16, while a draw for
Senegal would see them past a Colombia side who came to life in
their last match with a 3-0 thrashing of Poland.
The South Americans
need a win to go through, although they could qualify on goal
difference with a draw if Japan lose against Poland by more than
The Group H matches
are played before England and Belgium play their game later in
the day, so the two sides who progress will have to wait to
learn the identity of their next opponents, and whether they
will play their second round ties in Moscow or Rostov-On-Don.
Alderweireld knows all about club mate Kane
By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua)
-- Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld
knows more about the threat posed by England striker Harry Kane
than virtually anyone else in the 2018 World Cup finals.
Alderweireld and his
partner in central defense, Jan Vertonghen share a dressing room
with the man who currently leads the race for the Golden Boot in
this summer’s tournament.
Two goals against
Tunisia followed by three in the 6-1 thrashing of Panama means
Kane is the first England striker to score five goals in two
World Cup matches since 1986 when Gary Lineker scored a
hat-trick against Poland in the group stage and followed it up
with a brace of goals against Paraguay in the last 16. “He is in
a very good moment and has been all season. He’s a fantastic
player,” the Belgian defender said to the press on Wednesday.
highlighted the freshness in the England side which doesn’t seem
to be suffering from the big-tournament nerves which has
affected them recently in other major competitions. “I know
England a bit and I think there is a good group, they are young
players who are proud to play for England and you can see that
on the pitch. They have an idea of how they want to play and
they have a good manager,” Alderweireld said.
England have been
the most effective side in Russia from set pieces, netting six
of their eight goals from dead-ball situations with three goals
coming after a corner kick, two from the penalty spot and one
following a free kick.
“We know that [set
pieces are] vital for them, so we have to do well and defend
because it is a real strength for them,” the central defender