England will face Colombia in the round of 16 after Adnan Januzaj scored a stunning second-half strike to ensure Belgium finished top of Group G
England made eight changes to the team who thrashed Panama, while Belgium’s Roberto Martinez made nine alterations – proving victory wasn’t at the top of either sides agenda after already securing their place in the knockout stages.
The seemingly lifeless game was settled in the fiftieth minute when Januzaj cut in on his left-foot and curled his shot past Jordan Pickford.
England barely threatened and their biggest chance of the game fell to Marcus Rashford, who looked certain to equalise only to see his shot saved by Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Gareth Southgate’s men must reflect and pick themselves up from their first defeat in this World Cup, as they look towards their first knockout game against Colombia on Tuesday.
The game seemed to have been played out by who the group winners would be facing in the knockout phase. Should England beat Colombia, they could face either Switzerland or Sweden in the quarter-finals, whilst group winners Belgium could face Brazil.
Southgate said after the game, that the “biggest game for a decade” against Colombia justified his decision in resting key players.
He said: “You have to look at the bigger picture sometimes and make decisions which, in some quarters, might be criticised. But everyone understands – in the dressing room and in the group – what we’re trying to do.
“Of course we have a responsibility to the supporters, and the support in the stadium was absolutely outstanding tonight. The support and encouragement from home has been brilliant. But when you’re a leader and a manager, you have to make decisions which are right for your group to achieve the primary objective.”
The changes made by Southgate meant that many players had a chance to catch his eye and claim a place in the team. Jordan Henderson was replaced by Eric Dier, who was made captain for the game, but didn’t seem to match Henderson’s previous performances thus far.
Vardy and Rashford had a quiet game, and Sterling is likely to come back into the team, alongside captain Harry Kane – a player who England seemed to miss last night.
England’s Round of 16 opponents, Colombia, impressed during the group stages, winning two games and losing one.
Led by Striker Radamel Falcao, Colombia are ranked only three places behind England in the FIFA World Rankings and pose a threat for Gareth Southgate’s men.
Colombia’s midfield James was the top goal scorer during the last World Cup, but it is unknown whether he will be fit in time after suffering an injury.
England’s first knockout game, against Colombia in Moscow, will be shown live on ITV from 6.30pm on Tuesday 3rd July.
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