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England keeper Pickford: Winning helps build momentum

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has no doubts that England should go all out to defeat Belgium in their final Group G game in the 2018 World Cup final even though it could cost them a more difficult route to the final.

England and Belgium are both assured of their places in the last 16 and will face either Senegal, Japan or Colombia, but while the side that finishes second in the group could them be in line for a possible quarter-final against Mexico or Switzerland, the group winner could have to play Germany or Brazil in the last eight.

That has sparked speculation that both sides will rest key players when they meet on Thursday, but Pickford believes whoever starts, England will try to win.

“Our mentality is to try and win every game. We can’t be looking at what lies ahead,” he said, commenting that good results build confidence for the future.

“I feel that if we keep on winning then it helps us build up momentum in the tournament.”

Belgium has several key players such as Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku ad Eden Hazzard playing in England and the two sides hold no secrets from each other.

“We know Belgium are top opponents and we have to be at our best to win,” he said.

Lukaku missed training for Belgium on Tuesday as the result of a knock he picked up as he scored two goals in their 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia in their last group game, while Hazzard missed Monday’s session with a slight knock and both are expected to be rested on Thursday.

Pickford said that if Belgium didn’t field their strongest side, “it will make my job easier,” but he has confidence England can win whoever they face.

“Our defense is very strong and we have huge ability throughout the team,” he concluded. 



England versus Belgium: To win or not to win?

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- To win or not to win? That is the question that both England coach Gareth Southgate and his Belgian counterpart Roberto Martinez are probably asking themselves right now as the draw for the next stages of the World Cup opens up ahead of them.

England and Belgium are already assured of a place in the last 16 of the World Cup after impressive wins over Tunisia and Panama. The European heavyweights will face each other in their final Group G game, with a tie against Senegal, Colombia or Japan waiting in the last 16.

All three possible rivals present a difficult challenge, although not an insurmountable one, but if you look beyond the last 16 the panorama changes drastically. The way things stand the winners of Group G would (if they get through to the last 16) have a quarterfinal against either Brazil or Germany, with Mexico or Switzerland awaiting the side that finishes second.

Both the Mexicans and the Swiss have impressed and the Germans and Brazilians are having disappointing World Cups by their high standards.  That being said, England and Belgium would probably prefer a quarterfinal against Mexico or Switzerland rather than the defending champions or the World Cup’s most successful team.

“Everyone wants to look at a possible pathway,” Martinez said on Monday, before adding, “I don’t think as a professional you can go on a pitch not wanting to win.” Southgate echoed that sentiment. “I don’t know how we would go into a game not wanting to win and play well, so I think that’s dangerous territory if we start trying to plot and predict where we might end up,” the England coach said.

“We want to win every game of football we go into,” he added, reminding people not to get overconfident after their two opening wins. At Euro 2016 England thought they had a favorable draw in the last 16 but lost 2-1 to Iceland.

“We had a really favorable draw, we all thought, in the last tournament and it didn’t work out that way... We just have to keep playing as well as we can, keep preparing the team the right way, keep the momentum,” he concluded.

If the game between England and Belgium ends in a draw, fair play would decide which of the two ends up as the winner of the group. 



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