Belgium beat England to take third place at World Cup

Virginia Santiago
July 15, 2018

Football's not coming home, but it's still taking a slight detour as England meet Belgium in the World Cup third/fourth place play-off on Saturday.

England lost to Croatia 2-1 in extra time in the semifinal, ending a surprising run to the last four by the Three Lions.

While France will compete for their second World Cup title and Croatia their first in the final on Sunday, England and Belgium must be content to battle it out for the consolation prize of third place; a game that England Manager Gareth Southgate says that his team will approach with pride.

By the time the final 20 minutes came around, Belgium were hanging on for that bronze medal.

"It's all about the achievement, this is Belgium's best finish at a World Cup".

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England also finished in fourth place at the 1990 World Cup. Belgium's only loss in the tournament was in the 1-0 semifinal defeat to France.

Meunier returned from suspension and Youri Tielemans got a start ahead of Marouane Fellaini in midfield with the Belgians fielding their strong front three of Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard. England's midfield is creative, effervescent and fearless but perhaps lacks the dazzle we saw from Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.

But England improved after the break and almost equalised when Eric Dier got clear and chipped over Thibaut Courtois, only for Toby Alderweireld to make a sliding clearance off the line.

Romelu Lukaku couldn't add to his four goals for Belgium and was substituted shortly after misjudging a through ball by De Bruyne. "We beat England in the group phase and so we can do it again".

England (3-5-2): Jordan Pickford; Phil Jones, John Stones, Harry Maguire; Kieran Trippier, Eric Dier, Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Danny Rose; Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane (capt). Neither hit the target with their headers.

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19' - Another close chance for England. But the defender's audacious over-the-head effort sailed just over the crossbar.

It will also give captain Harry Kane a chance to secure his place as the tournament's top scorer, and become England's first Golden Boot victor since Gary Lineker at Mexico 1986.

Belgium almost doubled its lead in the 35th minute when Youri Tielemans lofted a ball into the area for Toby Alderweireld. Romelu Lukaku almost doubled his team's lead but a poor touch inside the box ended the scoring bid.

34' - Belgium finally break on an attack, but Eden Hazard's shot is blocked. Typically, soccer obliged to an unfathomable extent, delivering a multitude of goalscoring records that still stand, including: highest per-game average (5.38!), highest team goal total and goal difference (Hungary, 27 and plus-17), and highest for and against total by a victor (West Germany, 25 and 14).

The Tottenham Hotspur 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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