Dejected England, Belgium aim to leave on a high

Adnan Januzaj gave Belgium a 1-0 win over England in the two sides’s last Group game with a superb second-half strike. Net photo

Today
Belgium    Vs    England 4pm

England manager Gareth Southgate admits the World Cup third-place playoff is a game that no team wants to play, but Saturday’s match against Belgium offers the chance to finish the tournament on a winning note.

A gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to Croatia after extra-time denied England a shot at a second World Cup triumph, instead setting up a consolation game against familiar foes Belgium.

Roberto Martinez’s side, who were beaten 1-0 by France in the last four, topped Group G ahead of England after an Adnan Januzaj goal settled a low-key encounter in Kaliningrad.

That game saw both coaches heavily rotate their teams, and a similar scenario is likely in Saint Petersburg, with several fringe players pushing for a start.

“The honest thing is, it’s not a game any team wants to play in,” said Southgate, whose side have drawn praise for the way they have briefly united a country bitterly divided over Brexit.

However, he insisted that will not alter England’s approach as they look to achieve their best finish since they won the competition in 1966.

“We’ll want to give a performance of huge pride, there’s no question about that,” said Southgate.

“Every time we wear the shirt of our national team we want to play with pride, we want to play well and we want to win.”

Reserve goalkeepers Jack Butland and Nick Pope are the only two members of England’s 23-man squad yet to feature in Russia, as Southgate stuck with the same line-up throughout the knockout phase.

England skipper Harry Kane is the tournament’s top scorer on six goals, while Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku trails by two in the race for the Golden Boot.

With one more goal Kane would become the highest scorer at the competition since 2002, when Ronaldo struck eight times, including twice in the final, as Brazil clinched a record fifth title.

The Tottenham forward would be just the second England player to scoop the award, after Gary Lineker was the top scorer in 1986.

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