Pride will be at stake when the wounded Three Lions of England battle Belgium in the third place playoff of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium, Russia on Saturday afternoon.
England head into this match after losing 2-1 to Croatia in the semi-final played on Tuesday. They had an early lead through Kieran Tripper whitewashed in the second half as Croatia forced extra time. Mario Mandzukic’s 108th minute volley broke the English hearts. Belgium on the other hand were superior to France in their last four encounter but could not find the breakthrough as they lost 1-0.
These two teams were in Group H together with the Red Devils topping it after three solid wins. Belgium prevailed in the final group match against England as Adnan Januzaj’s curling effort sealed a comfortable 1-0 win for the Red Devils. Belgium had contrasting fortunes in their run up to the semi-finals.
They had to recover from two goals down against minnows Japan to seal a dramatic 3-2 win in the last 16. Contrary to expectation, they humbled favourites Brazil 2-1 at the quarter finals to stake their claim in the title race. England on the other hand conceded in the final minutes to Colombia as they drew 1-1 in the last 16 before prevailing on penalties. The English men then comfortably beat Sweden 2-0 to advance to the semis.
In their group encounter, both teams fielded second-string sides and that took the sting out the game of such a magnitude. Both managers will be expected to field strong teams on Saturday as pride is at stake. Belgium have a strong midfield presence and it is unclear if England boss will be tempted to bring in Eric Dier to back up Jordan Henderson in that holding midfield role. There is a danger of Henderson being overran if he alone in the middle of the park.
Tripper limped off in the dying minutes of the match against Croatia and he will have to pass a late fitness test if he is to feature in this match. Ashley Young can naturally fill in that right wing back position with Danny Rose taking up his preferred left wing back role. Belgium’s manager Roberto Martinez has a fully fit squad to choose from. He will welcome the services of Thomas Meunier who was suspended for the match against France.
France on the other hand will tackle Croatia in what is set to be a thrilling final on Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. It will the first World Cup final that Croatia participates in whereas France’s last final appearance was in 2006 when they faced Italy.