Final score: England 0-1 Belgium
Goalscorers: Adnan Januzaj 51′ (Belgium)
Two teams that have set the tournament alight so far, England and Belgium took on each other last night in their final 2018 FIFA World Cup group stage fixture. With both sides having already secured qualification to the Round of 16, both managers decided to rest their key players and field what most would term their B teams.
Roberto Martinez, Belgium’s manager, made as many as 9 changes from the side that beat Tunisia 5-2 in Matchday 2, while Gareth Southgate, England’s manager, made 8 changes to the side that beat Panama 6-1.
In what turned out to be one of the most boring games this tournament, Belgium eventually proved to be the better side on the night, albeit marginally. Adnan Januzaj’s superbly curled effort in the 51st minute turned out to be the only difference between the two sides, handing Belgium the top spot in Group H.
On that note, here is a look at 3 reasons why Belgium managed to trump England 1-0:
#1 Adnan Januzaj put in a blistering performance to seal the game
When the teams were announced, most people were surprised to see Adnan Januzaj being given a spot in the starting 11 at a World Cup. The 23-year-old last played for the Red Devils in 2014 and had only made 8 appearances for Belgium.
However, contrary to England’s youngsters, Januzaj capitalised on the opportunity he was given with an extremely lively performance. The Belgian made 3 successful dribbles and constantly caused problems for Danny Rose on the right flank.
He topped off an exciting performance with an exquisite goal as he left Rose for dead with some nimble footwork before giving himself enough space to send a curling effort crashing into the back of Jordan Pickford’s net.
Only time will tell whether his performance was good enough to give him another chance in the knockout stage, but boy did he make the most of the chance gifted to him by Roberto Martinez.
#2 Belgium took early control of the game
As an extension of the previous slide, Belgium’s more experienced players, Fellaini, Dembele and Januzaj proved to be instrumental to their side’s victory as they snatched control of the game early into the encounter and never looked like losing it.
The aforementioned players ultimately proved to be too much for England to handle as they were also better equipped to deal with most threats.
Fellaini and Thorgan Hazard were, perhaps, the best players on the night while Januzaj added all the flair and flamboyance. Further, Fellaini’s 6 wins in the air completely nullified England’s aerial threat while Youri Tielemans and Dembele made 4 successful tackles apiece to constantly disrupt England’s advances on the ground.
Januzaj and Hazard took a combined total of 7 shots, incessantly applying pressure on England’s defence, as the former eventually broke through and found the back of the net.
#3 Belgium’s B-team was clearly more experienced than England’s
As both managers decided to field fresh legs for this particular contest, England only retained Jordan Pickford, John Stones and Ruben Loftus-Cheek from England’s previous outing, while Belgium only retained Dedryck Boyata and Thibaut Courtois from theirs.
While England’s side comprised mostly of youngsters who are relatively inexperienced at this stage, Belgium was able to summon the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Thomas Vermaelen and Mousa Dembélé – players who have a lot more experience than most of the English side.
The English youngsters clearly seemed a tad too lost while Belgium seemed a little more in control of the game, and in the end, that made all the difference.