Belgium bests England to take top spot in Group G

Belgium bests England to take top spot in Group G

"It's been unusual to see them struggle as much as they have".

What it highlighted, in bright lights, was the fallibility of playing for second place which, until late Wednesday, was expected to mean a quarter-final meeting with Germany or Brazil. Both England and Belgium rested their most important players and the game was sorely lacking in thrilling action.

Manager Southgate made eight changes to the team which thumped minnows Panama 6-1 on Sunday, with captain and leading scorer Harry Kane rested.

There's something to be said for form and belief and momentum - all things Colombia established following back-to-back clean sheet wins over Poland and a Senegalese team that's among the scrappiest in the tournament.

Southgate has gambled, and time will tell if it paid off. That could give England's Harry Kane an opportunity to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race, with the Tottenham star on five goals, while Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored four apiece.

Yes, Rose made a mistake for the goal but Young has made a few positional errors over the first couple of games against poorer teams.

Though England fans celebrated him not scoring as it handed the 1966 World Cup winners a more favourably run in. Belgium, reputedly keen to finish second to avoid that potential clash with Brazil, stepped up a gear in the second half though, breaking the deadlock through Januzaj.

Some of the positivity which had been building up around the England team was lost with this performance - lacking in the excitement of the previous matches in Russian Federation.

Colombia ready for 'full-on, to-the-death' England match
Rashford had by a distance England's best chance 25 minutes from time, but again slotted wide with just Courtois to beat. Here's the goal, a thundering header by Yerry Mina in the 74th minute, that won Group H for Colombia .

"Winning the World Cup on 15 July would be an unanswerable response".

Minutes after, in the 66th (!) minute to be precise, Rashford had the chance to go level.

"We can only regret the chances we didn't take". You don't want to see smiles in the changing rooms. "We've not won a knockout game since 2006", he said in response to a journalist's question about who he would prefer to face in the semi-final.

"We know that depending on which players we pick in certain positions, we just have a different profile of threat". We saw that in the Euros two years ago. He has tested that philosophy to its limits, locating them in Kaliningrad's Radisson hotel, over the road from the Maxim strip club and right in the centre of town.

"When you're a leader and a manager, you have got to make decisions that are right for your group and are right for the primary objective", the Three Lions boss said. Which many will agree, oh you brainy bunch. "Now we need to look at our individual players".

Who knows if Belgian coach Roberto Martinez wanted to win Thursday night's drab affair.

Southgate labelled the Colombia match England's "biggest game for a decade", so was comfortable defending himself when asked if he had a responsibility to fans and the tournament to have winning matches as his top priority. Plenty to celebrate already, even before a ball has been kicked: England are through, and the Germans are out.

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