Top of the group, or second

29 June, 2018, 14:53 | Author: Courtney Perry
  • Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire have had to adapt to Southgate's system

Southgate was adamant nothing other than three points against Belgium has been discussed, insisting his side are prepared for the prospect of facing more hard opponents, having beaten Panama and Tunisia so far in Russian Federation.

"The knockout game is the biggest game for a decade, so we had to make sure our key players were preserved", said Southgate, having left out captain Harry Kane among others. "Why we would be starting to plot which would be a better venue for our semi-final is beyond me really". The second match saw the Red Devils thrashing Tunisia 5-2 courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard brace.

The goal also ensured that Belgium topped the group and booked a last-16 clash with Japan in Rostov, consigning England to a match-up with Colombia in Moscow and a much less formidable opponent in the quarters in Switzerland or Sweden if they make it past the South Americans.

Since winning the World Cup in 1966, England have won just SIX games in knockout global football.

Their final game presented the usual conundrum for teams already through with a game to spare: Do you try to keep the momentum going with your starters, or cycle in reserves to fight for a place and give the regulars a rest? If this match is a draw, then it is this disciplinary measure which will decide the final ordering of the group.

"What I've discussed with the players is we must not waste any energy thinking whether it's better to be first or second in the group, who we might play in future rounds", said Southgate. We want to perform well but the priority is not to win.

'We know that depending on which players we pick in certain positions, we just have a different profile of threat.

After the game, Pekerman told reporters he was anxious about the condition of the 26-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Bayern Munich from Real Madrid, while also attempting to play down the situation given Colombia's qualification for the last 16. The last of these came 12 years ago against Ecuador.


'Maybe we didn't have as many runners in behind tonight and we didn't have the link between the lines quite as well, but lots of good individual moments for all of the players and a lot that we can learn from as well. They face the unsafe Colombia and will meet the victor of Sweden against Switzerland in the last eight if they come through.

What happens if England win or lose?

In Group H, Colombia finished top of the standings with a 1-0 victory over Senegal while Japan barely squeezed into the final 16 despite losing 1-0 to Poland - because the Samurai Blue had fewer tournament yellow cards than Senegal.

Shortly after the game ended, Batshuayi took to social media to face the inevitably trolling that was coming his way with several tweets.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen is eager to take on his Spurs team-mates when Belgium face England in the Group G top spot decider on Thursday.

However, due to results elsewhere, the team that finishes second in the group will end up on the easier side of the draw for the knockout stages, avoiding a potential showdown with Brazil in the quarterfinals.

The other group game is between Panama and Tunisia.

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