World Cup: Again, England, Belgium Battle For Pride

World Cup: Again, England, Belgium Battle For Pride

Sixteen days after their last Group G match at the on-going FIFA World Cup in Russia, England and Belgium will return to the battle field to decide which of them will go home as the third-best team in the world.

That game, meaningless as it was, ended 1-0 in favour of Belgium with former Manchester United star, Adnan Januzaj, getting the winner for Roberto Martinez’s side. It also won the group for Belgium, which went on to beat Japan 3-2 in the second round.

Most English fans did not see the defeat as anything because the Three Lions and their opponents played with second string stars. Today is expected to be different as both teams are condemned to field their best in the search for a consolatory win.

Just like all the teams that have left the tournament, England and Belgium have been ruing what could have been if they had won their respective semifinals against Croatia and France, and their coaches have been trying to rouse them for one last win before the curtain draws tomorrow,

Speaking on the eve of the game, England Manager, Gareth Southgate, acknowledged that the third-place play-off against Belgium is not an assignment he is approaching with any joy, adding he would look at his stars to determine their state, physically and psychologically, before picking the squad.

He needs not worry about the players’ motivation as most of them have talked about the need to leave Russia with something to show their fans back home.

“We came to win this tournament; we can’t do that now, but we want to finish third,” said goalkeeper Jordan Pickford ahead of this tie. “Even if we can’t finish as the best team in the world, we can still be the third best.

“Of course, it will be hard to get ourselves up for it and that’s where character comes in. It’s another chance to show our togetherness. We want to finish a great tournament on a high. If we win we can look back on it with a lot of pleasure and that is what it is all about. Hopefully I will get the nod against Belgium. I’d love to get the goalkeeper of the tournament award.”

Pickford may not get the opportunity to play today, as there are speculations that Southgate could hand the number one spot to Jack Butland. Even then, the Everton goalkeeper is still proud of what he has achieved here.

Aside Butland, Southgate may give Leicester City’s star, Jamie Vardy the chance to start in place of Kane, who was rendered ineffective by Croatian defenders in the semifinals. But that would deny Kane the opportunity to add to his goals and secure the top scorer’s boot, especially with Romelu Lukaku, who has four goals, two short of Kane’s tally, likely to start for Belgium. France’s Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann, who will compete in the final, have three goals each.

Kane said ahead of today’s game that “the third-place game is not a match we wanted to be in. But we will try to play with as much pride as we can and finish on a high. We will still be thinking of the semi-final defeat, and what could have been, but of course I want to play. Everyone will want to.


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