England vs Belgium – Thursday 28 June, 19:00BST/20:00CEST/21:00 MSK – Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad, Russia
With rotation of players expected on both sides, will we need the first ‘drawing of lots’ to decide who from England vs Belgium marches into the round of 16 as group winners? Both sides have, so far, taken maximum points from their opening two games. Now something must give as England and Belgium look to finish top of Group G.
England are currently flying, their excellent start of six points from all six available has equalled Ron Greenwood’s Spain 1982 side, and even matched the so called ‘golden generation’ coached by Sven-Goran Eriksson during the World Cup in Germany, 2006.
However, despite excellent results against Tunisia and Panama it is Belgium who will give Gareth Southgate’s side their first real test at this World Cup. Parallel to this fascinating fixture is ‘who will actually want to finish top of Group G?’
Japan could face the runners up whilst the winners may face a difficult matchup against Colombia. For the first time at Russia 2018 it could be an easier path for the side who doesn’t win their group. Southgate isn’t convinced however:
“We want to win every game we go into. I don’t know how we would go into a game not wanting to win and not wanting to play well, so, I think that’s dangerous territory, if we start trying to plot and predict where we might end up.” – Gareth Southgate
Roberto Martinez has the experience of winning trophies as a club manager, and in his Belgium squad he has a raft of players who can boast winners medals with their clubs – can this combination come together and win the biggest prize in world football? Arguably this fixture will give the watching masses an indication.
Similar to their opponents on Thursday night, Belgium will want to carry on their good run of form, but Martinez has publicly spoken of his desire to rest certain key players – up to seven would not be beyond the realm of reality.
“I think everyone deserves to play, so it’s more important for me to be able to give that opportunity and see how they can react on the pitch and how much they can contribute. Nobody has got a place guaranteed in this team at the moment. That’s the way we are looking at it, so it could be a possibility to do that, yes” – Roberto Martinez
England vs Belgium – Players to look out for:
Harry Kane #9 – England (Tottenham Hotspur)
Should the captain get his wish and start this game he will be hunting down another set of goals to bring him the Golden Boot. Kane is in a wonderful vein of form, as proved by his third goal against Panama, ricocheting off his heel and into the net – the old adage of can’t stop scoring looks to be currently sat with the England captain.
Michy Batshuayi #21 – Belgium (Chelsea)
Impressing while on loan at Borussia Dortmund the striker almost saw his dream of appearing at this World Cup crushed at the last moment; however, he recovered quickly from an ankle injury to take his place in the Belgium squad.
With fellow forward, Romelu Lukaku expected to be rested after picking up an injury against Tunisia, the well travelled Batshuayi should become the Red Devil’s main target man against England.
England vs Belgium – Match Stats
- This will be the third meeting between England and Belgium at the World Cup, with England so far unbeaten in their encounters.
- Belgium have won just one of their 21 meetings with England (D5 L15).
- England have already scored eight goals in the 2018 World Cup (level with 1954 and 1990) – the only time England scored more in a single edition of the competition was in 1966 finishing on 11 goals.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: England vs Belgium – 2-2
England vs Belgium – Lineups
Pickford – Cahill, Stones, Maguire –Alexander-Arnold, Delph, Henderson, Dier, Young – Vardy, Kane
Head Coach: Gareth Southgate
Courtois – Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen – Meunier, De Bruyne, Fellaini, Carrasco – Dembele , Thorgen Hazard – Batshuayi
Head Coach: Roberto Martinez
Chris Williams is a freelance European football journalist. Primarily covering the Bundesliga, Premier League and both of UEFA’s European club competitions. Published in both local and international publications, he also contributes to television and radio across the globe. A member of the UK’s Sports Journalist Association and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). Follow Chris Williams on Twitter @Chris78Williams