World Cup third-place play-off Belgium v England Preview

On Saturday, Belgium and England go head-to-head in the third-place play-off game at World Cup 2018.

This is the game that neither team will have wanted to play in before the semi-finals. However, both sides fell short in their last four games, so will have to battle it out for a bronze medal at Russia 2018.

Belgium were highly fancied heading into their semi-final clash with France, only to suffer a 1-0 defeat against Les Bleus. The loss ended a 24-match unbeaten run for Roberto Martinez’s team.

The Red Devils had also won their previous seven games heading into the last four clash. They had also been lethal in front of goal, scoring at least twice in six of their previous eight outings.

These two teams met in the group stages, which resulted in a somewhat lacklustre game and a 1-0 win to Martinez’s side.

England suffered defeat at the hands of Croatia in the last four, as the Three Lions suffered a 2-1 loss in extra-time. In truth, Gareth Southgate’s team have overachievement in Russia after such low expectation heading into the World Cup.

The Three Lions have lost just once in their last 16 games (in 90 minutes), which was the earlier mentioned group loss to Belgium.

Their recent games have been low scoring affairs, with under 2.5 goals scored in their last four games (90 minutes).

Star striker Harry Kane is currently leading the race for the Golden Boot at the World Cup, having scored six times in Russia. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku is two behind the Spurs forward for the award.

Team News

Belgium have no reported injury problems. Full-back Thomas Meunier is likely to return to the starting line-up after missing the France game through suspension.

England boss Gareth Southgate may decide to make changes his starting line-up after extra-time against Croatia. The likes of Fabian Delph, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Marcus Rashford could all start. Wing-back Kieran Trippier is a doubt after picking up an injury in extra-time against Croatia.

Prediction

If Belgium’s star players are motivated and play at their top level, then they should have too much quality for their tired opponents. However, if Roberto Martinez makes changes to his team, then the game may be slightly more even.

I can see Belgium recording a victory in a low scoring tight clash, although I doubt many will remember who won the game anyway.

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