KALININGRAD Russia (Xinhua) --
Belgium remained unbeaten in Russia World Cup as
they defeated England in the Kaliningrad Stadium Thursday night
and will face Japan in the knockout stage.
England, who have
won only two knockout matches in the past three decades, reached
the last 16 as runner-up to face Colombia.
Both teams had
brilliant records in previous two rounds of group matches, which
ensured them early tickets to the round of 16.
Level on points,
goal difference and goals scored, Thursday’s game would be
decisive for the ranking.
The goal was scored
in the 51st minute, as Adnan Januzaj cut in from the
right, passed over Tottenham Hotspur defender Danny Rose and
thwacked a shot into the net.
equalized 15 minutes later, with the dribbling Marcus Rashford
facing Belgium’s goalkeeper one-to-one. It was the best chance
for England but the Manchester United striker had his shot right
They went close
against 10 minutes before the full-time stroke with a free-kick
27 meters from the goal. Rashford aimed at the top-right corner
but the ball flew over the bar.
Loftus-Cheek blazed down the right, before curling the shot
again over the bar.
When it came to
stoppage time, Belgium nearly doubled the lead. Substitute Dries
Mertens lashed a dipping strike which was palmed out by Everton
goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The match was
watched by close to 34,000 spectators in the tournament’s
Both teams played a
changed team, with England resting eight of their players from
the previous match and Belgium nine, including top scorer
Harry Kane who had five goals, Romelu Lukaku who had four and
Eden Hazard, man of last match.
England started the
game with more possession, but it was Belgium who appeared more
minute saw Belgium’s first threat, when Youri Tielemans received
a pass from the right and slammed at the net from about 23
meters away. Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made an
Four minutes later,
Adnan Januzaj delivered a cross to Marouane Fellaini, who nodded
on it. Pickford tried to save but the ball rolled through him
towards the line. It was Chelsea defender Gary Cahill who
managed a last-second clearance.
shifted the balance thereafter.
Michy Batshuayi, the
Borussia Dortmund forward who had a stoppage-time goal against
Tunisia, caused chaos for the Three Lions before the half-hour
mark, which was later joined by Fellaini and Januzaj. It took
some efforts from John Stones, Loftus-Cheek and Rashford to save
the team amid scramble.
Shortly after that
Trent Alexander-Arnold won a free-kick. He found Loftus-Cheek,
who flicked the header wide.
Should the match
continue to be fruitless, ranking will be decided by
disciplinary record. Belgium players Leander Dendoncker and
Youri Tielemans were booked in the first half.
“The victory is a
consequence of a very good performance,” said Roberto Martinez,
coach of Belgium.
The team who top the
group will face Japan in the last 16 round, but, if win, are
likely to have a bumpy road ahead against Brazil, France,
Portugal or Argentina. However, no team which finished second in
the group stages has won the World Cup since 1986.
“You cannot plan the
ideal scenario, you’ve seen big teams already eliminated,” he
said. “We need to look at ourselves, we are a stronger group
than we were before the game. We’re facing Japan, we’ve got to
be ready for it.”
While England coach
Gerath Southgate said that it was an even game. “The players who
have played tonight have given absolutely everything and never
stopped. Everyone’s seen the level that we’ve been playing at
and we’ve got to keep improving,” he said.
Talking about his
opponent, he said: ”They had better controlled possession than
us at times...This was a game that we wanted to win, but the
knockout game is the biggest game for a decade for us so we had
to make sure our key players were preserved.”
and Belgium both wanted to win, but not at any cost
KALININGRAD Russia (Xinhua) --
Both England and Belgium head coaches said after
their clash in the third round group match that they wanted to
win, but not at any cost.
The game in the
Kaliningrad Stadium on Thursday evening ended with Belgium
winning 1-0. That result means the Red Devils topped Group G and
will face Japan in the knockout stage, while England will take
It had been
speculated before the game that both teams may have wanted to
avoid finishing top of the group, as the winner may face tricky
ties against the likes of Brazil, France, Portugal or Argentina.
coach Roberto Martinez played down the notion that his team
would have been happier to lose. “I don’t think in the World Cup
you can be successful by trying to hope to get an easy path,”
the 44-year-old said.
“What you should try
is to create a group, with everyone desperate to contribute and
perform for each other,” he added.
noted that his team was clear from the outset that “winning at
all costs is not an option”, explaining his decision to make
nine changes to Belgium’s starting lineup.
“We have to spread
the responsibility in the group. We have to see who is ready. We
have to see how well some players are recovering from injury,”
The Spaniard said he
was satisfied with his team’s performance. “The young players
showed they are ready to contribute,” he said, reserving special
praise for Youri Tielemans, 21, and 23-year-old Adnan Januzaj.
“Maybe we are a
little bit slow in finding the route we need to penetrate. But I
think that is normal when you make nine changes,” he added.
coach of England, seemed to share Martinez’s safety-first
approach. “We would have potentially risked players that we
didn’t have to risk,” he said, adding that it would have been
foolish to play top goalscorer Harry Kane and risk him being
“The game was a
really good test for us. We knew that the level of the game was
going to be high, even with both teams making changes. Belgium
had controlled possession. We found it difficult to press.”
“But in terms of
effectiveness and chances, we were probably fairly even. We had
a couple of good chances and counterattacks. So I think we will
learn a lot from the game. Tactically, it is a good game for us
to review,” he added.
In response to a
question from Xinhua, Southgate described his team as young,
enthusiastic, energetic, and improving. “We are showing signs of
being an exciting football team. Even tonight was a brilliant
experience for people like Trent [Alexander-Arnold] and Ruben
[Loftus-Cheek] to play in World Cup matches. They are 19, 21,
but they both showed they were trying to make things happen.”
[ranked] third in the world for a reason, because they have
played together for a long time, and they had extremely
experienced players even in the game tonight. So we still have
some work to do, but we are pretty realistic about where we
are,” the England coach noted.
Discussing the match
against Colombia next week, Southgate said it would be a
fantastic challenge, but a game that England were capable of
was at pains to point out the futile nature of making too many
predictions, adding that his team was solely focused on their
next match against Japan.
in the World Cup is difficult. Germany are out of the
competition and I don’t think many people expected that. We saw
that Spain only topped their group in the last three minutes of
play. We saw how close Argentina came [to being eliminated]. So
this World Cup is very unpredictable. Currently, Japan is our