By Niall Clarke
- England vs Belgium Preview
- The Three Lions continue their 2018 World Cup campaign on Thursday night
- Gareth Southgate’s men could seal top position in Group G with a win
Kaliningrad, Russia – England face their first major test of the World Cup when they face Belgium in a first place shootout in Group G on Thursday and we have a preview to boost your excitement.
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The pressure is somewhat off The Three Lions after sealing qualification with a 6-1 thrashing of Panama on Sunday. Win, lose or draw, England are in the next round no matter what happens on Thursday, and that is at least one stage better than 2014.
Belgium do however represent a much bigger test than Panama and Tunisia who with all due respect are not on the level of the top two teams in this group. What we have seen from England so far has been really impressive in parts with some little things that need addressing, but with this being the first major test of the competition, we may get to see what exactly Gareth Southgate’s side are made of.
That said, we do not know which Belgium will show up in Kaliningrad. There are rumours that up to 10 players may be rested with the last 16 and beyond in mind for Roberto Martinez and his team, so we may not get to see the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne strut their stuff. Howver, even Belgium’s second team features the likes of Moussa Dembele and Michy Batshuayi and will provide England’s biggest test thus far.
There is also the conundrum of finishing first compared to finish second. The way the draw has shaped up, finishing second could lead to a much easier root to the semi finals as Brazil are in the other half of the draw. Southgate has assured his side are focused on nothing but this game and winning it, but there is an undeniable cloud hanging over this game.
Wins over Panama and Tunisia have left both the Three Lions and The Red Devils level on six points with the same goal difference, the same goals scored and the same goals conceded. A win for either side will see them top the group, but what happens if there is a draw? Well it goes down to fair play in which England has one more booking than Belgium heading into the game. If Belgium get one more booking than England in this game however then lots will be drawn. An already historic and at times bizarre World Cup will could get even weirder and more dramatic.
POLL | Where will England finish in the World Cup?
It will be interesting to see if Dele Alli is risked after recovering from a small injury that kept him out of the game against Panama. Other than that England have no injury problems heading into the game, it is just a question of seeing what players (if any) that Southgate will decide to rest.
Romelu Lukaku may not feature for the Red Devils after struggling with an injury against Tunisia. That is the only injury concern for Belgium who may look to rest players themselves for future rounds.
POLL | Who will win the World Cup 2018?
This is the first big test for England no matter which Belgium side we see on Thursday. Martinez will likely keep some of the big boys out, but others will feature as momentum can be a key thing when it comes to International tourmaments. And that is exactly what England are looking to keep up when they take to the field against Belgium, so therefore not all the first eleven will be rested.
With both teams through there is not a whole lot to fight for in this match, so it will not be an intense affair. The best we can hope for is that both teams put caution to the wind and go for it, but neither will want to lose. Possession will most likely be controlled by the Belgians with England looking to hit them on the counter which creates an interesting dynamic as England have controlled their last two games.
A win for either side will see them win the group whilst a draw complicates things. Tis has been far from a simple World Cup, so it is going to be a draw isn’t it?
Prediction: England 1-1 Belgium
England vs Belgium takes place on Thursday June 28th at 19:00 BST
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