England faces defeat against Belgium as a sensational strike by Adnan Januzaj ensured Belgium a top spot in Group G.
England took the field with 8 changes from their victory against Panama, while Belgium came with 9 changes, showing winning was not exactly the topmost priority as the competition moves towards the round of 16. This was further demonstrated by a considerably mediocre, lackluster performance in Kaliningrad that was settled by Januzaj’s goal in the 51st minute, the former Manchester United midfielder cutting inside before bending a left-foot shot high past Jordan Pickford.
Belgium and England fans reaction to that Adnan Januzaj goal pic.twitter.com/HJGfW7rsFk
— Troll Football (@TrollFootball) June 28, 2018
England, who despairingly missed their absent captain and leading World Cup scorer Harry Kane, hardly threatened, though Marcus Rashford should have equalized, Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois pushing his effort wide for a corner.
Gareth Southgate needs to reflect on England’s first defeat at this World Cup as he plans to face the armed Colombians in Moscow on Tuesday, while Belgium travels to Rostov to play Japan on Monday.
England lose; but win?
The build-up to this game was thought out in the context of who would top the group, with the conspiracy that finishing second might yield an easier course than winning Group G. It was clear that a victory was barely the topmost priority for either manager, and the numerous changes frequently cautioned to reduce the game to a farce, the first half ceasing in a tune of jeering.
Should England beat Colombia, there is the prospect of facing either Sweden or Switzerland. But the South American giants will pose a substantial threat, furthermore, only time will tell if England will regret not working harder for the greater glory of victory.
Belgium look stronger than ever
Roberto Martinez made the bizarre, although brutally realistic, claim before kick-off that a victory was not his priority in this final group match. However, he did get the 3 points to top the group and face Japan in their first knockout stage, and a few of the flashes from his clearly B-Team proved the strength of depth he has at his disposition.
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) June 28, 2018
This was a Belgium side without Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens, to name, in their starting line-up. Nevertheless, when they truly desired to, they upped their game to a level surpassing England.
If Martinez can bring this powerful squad to perform in the right manner, this is potentially a World Cup-winning side.
England need their captain
Southgate rested Kane for more prominent clashes ahead but this shallow defeat leaves him with ample food for thought.
Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford were trusted with attacking responsibilities. Both of them fought hard but England’s lack of penetration only highlighted their heavy dependence, some would argue over-dependence, on the captain and talisman.
Kane is the competition’s top scorer with 5 goals and has not yet been the beneficiary of a substantial supply line, 2 goals resulting from corners, 2 two from penalties and another a deflection from Ruben Loftus-Cheek‘s shot to complete his hat-trick in the 6-1 win against Panama. He is the pivotal figure in England’s World Cup aspirations, the leader on and off the pitch and a striker every defence at this competition would be concerned about facing.
— Harry Kane (@HKane) June 28, 2018
Southgate’s hesitation to throw Kane into the action, even when England were losing and posing little threat, was perhaps an even significant indicator of just how valuable he feels he will be in the round of 16 and further.
Vardy and Rashford did their best and may make significant contributions further down the road, but England proved here that they were toothless and could not do without their captain.