England, Belgium battle for top spot after Germany World Cup shock

Calvin Saunders
June 29, 2018

A superior disciplinary record had meant stalemate was always likely to see Gareth Southgate's men finish at the summit but though Belgium racked up further bookings, they found the back of the net through Januzaj's fine 51st-minute strike.

The two teams have had a relatively stress-free progression from Group G and been able to rotate their squad, but their potential rivals have not.

Vertonghen is of the opinion that it will be a special match between two top quality sides who have looked solid in the opening stages of the World Cup.

Despite top spot in the group still being up for grabs, though, Southgate said neither he nor his team would be tempted into playing the long game and thinking about who they might face out of Group H when they open up knockout-round play.

Marcus Rashford and substitute Danny Welbeck went closest to an equaliser on a night when Belgium's second ever win in this fixture left England plotting their route to Moscow.

Southgate said winning in Kaliningrad was his priority to keep England's momentum going into the knockout phase but that is not reflected in his team selection. It's been a odd end to an absorbing World Cup group stage.

'So, everybody knows that the most important game is the knockout game'.

Belgium's Manager Roberto Martinez is expected to make at least 6 changes to his lineup with Romelu Lukaku (ruled out with an injury), Dries Mertens (ankle problem), Eden Hazard (nursing a calf problem) along with Thomas Meunier, Kevin De Bruyne and Jan Vertonghen all of whom are a booking away from suspension. Only Tunisia-England was close, decided by Harry Kane's 2-1 injury-time victor.

German media have given a damning verdict of the campaign, which will be remembered as the first time since 1938 that the country has failed to make it past the first round.

Opposite number Roberto Martinez is expected to make wholesale changes to his team, with Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku nearly certain to miss out after picking up an ankle knock in Belgium´s 5-2 win over Tunisia.

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Speaking to TalkSport, Southgate said: "As a manager you've got to think about the whole squad and then your second thought is always for individuals and their own situations - that's a really complex balance in any business when you're managing people, but I'm sure we will get that right". 'I think here we've played extremely well.

'And, yeah, maybe we could have pushed a bit more by putting other players into the game tonight, but we still created chances, we had one absolutely fantastic chance to tie the game.

England's Harry Kane is leading the race for the World Cup Golden Boot.

England and Belgium in the next round will either face Senegal, Japan or Colombia, who will have sorted out their placings in Group H an hour before England kicks off.

"Now we need to look into our individual players".

'Anybody that plays against Colombia will know they are match ready.

Jose Pekerman has refused to entertain the prospect of seeing Colombia´s stuttering World Cup campaign end at the first hurdle.

We started the match asking whether either side would want to win.

Friday is a rest day.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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