Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored an 82nd minute goal as the Red Devils eased 2-0 past a disappointing England to finish third in the 2018 World Cup. This was after a gruelling encounter at the St. Petersburg Stadium, Russia on Saturday evening.
England started well by dictating play in the opening three minutes. Belgium looked stationery but had other ideas in mind. In the fourth minute, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois initiated a quick counter attack on the left wing with a lofted clearance to Nacer Chadli. The winger crossed to the overlapping Thomas Meunier who stretched to steer the ball past Jordan Pickford.
This goal unsettled England as Belgium carved them open at will with quick counter attacks. In the ninth minute, Kieran Trippier lofted a free kick into the box but no England player was in sight to pounce.
Two minutes later, poor defending by John Stones allowed Romelu Lukaku’s pass to find Kevin De Bruyne on the left flank. His shot was deflected off Phil Jones with Pickford adjusting brilliantly to make the save. On the other end, Fabien Delph had an ambitious shot from the edge of the box on his weaker right foot that was easily saved by Courtois.
England started building momentum and barely a minute later, Trippier cross was headed goal wards by Ruben Loftus-Cheek. However, it was straight at Courtois. Belgium almost doubled their lead in the 16th minute. De Bruyne hit a through ball to Lukaku who was poised to score. His poor first touch allowed Pickford to recover and make the save.
In the 19th minute, Trippier’s corner from the right wing was headed straight at Courtois. England’s best chance of the half came in the 24th minute. Dier’s cross-field pass to Raheem Sterling was laid down to the path of Harry Kane. The usually lethal striker slipped as his angled right foot shot fizzed wide.
The final chance of the half was in the 34th minute. De Bruyne played in a short corner to Youri Tielemans who crossed into the box. The ball fell kindly to Toby Alderweireld whose first time volley on the turn went slightly over the bar to close out the half.
In the 50th minute, Trippier delivered a free kick from the right flank. Jan Vertonghen almost diverted the ball into his own goal with the outstretched left leg as Belgium breathed a sigh of relief. Hazard finished the game off in the 82nd minute after receiving a defence splitting pass from De Bruyne.
He cooly slotted home at Pickford’s near post to break any England resolve. Belgium finished third at the World Cup with France and Croatia contesting the final on Sunday.
“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”