England and Belgium fielded their second teams in this showdown. Belgium won 1-0 to win Group G with nine points.
England is second with six.
Belgium will battle Japan while England has a hot date with Colombia.
In Group H,Colombia defeated Senegal 1-0.
Japan lost to Poland 1-0
ESPN: “Three thoughts from Belgium’s 1-0 victory over England in their Group G decider.
- Januzaj seals top spot for Belgium
In the end, Adnan Januzaj’s second-half winner banished any suggestion of Belgium wanting to avoid victory — yes, victory — against England but the former Manchester United winger’s goal was a rare highlight of a bizarre Group G game in Kaliningrad.
Having seen first-half bookings for Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker cheered by Belgian fans keen to avoid a possible quarterfinal clash with Brazil — the bookings ensured Belgium would lose a fair play head-to-head with England — Januzaj’s curling strike on 51 minutes was a celebrated with surprising passion by the Belgians and their supporters.
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.
With both managers making wholesale changes having already secured qualification from the group, the two teams played with so little intensity during the first half that they were booed and jeered by local fans inside the ground at half-time. 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.
Marcus Rashford had a subsequent chance to equalise for England and reclaim top spot but he missed his chance and let Belgium off the hook.
Time will tell as to the pros and cons and finishing first and second but both England and Belgium will expect to overcome Colombia and Japan respectively in the round of 16.
- Freshness could be crucial for Belgium and England
Having got this strange game out of the way, both Belgium and England can now focus fully on going deep into the World Cup knock-out stages and their fresh legs could be crucial. Each manager exploited the luxury of resting key players for this game and despite the controversy it may generate, both Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate arguably have to play the long game in this World Cup.
The two teams have had a relatively stress-free progression from Group G and been able to rotate their squad, but their potential rivals have not. Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia have all been pushed to the limit in their groups, with only France having a similarly easy ride into the round of 16.
England and Belgium still have plenty left in the tank for the knock-out stages but how much will the group games have taken out of their rivals?
Former England defender Gary Neville told ESPN FC recently that the successful teams in major tournaments are often the most resilient rather than the best and England and Belgium have an advantage in terms of resilience because their energy levels should be higher than virtually everyone else’s.
- Januzaj still has potential to be a star
Januzaj has often been accused of coasting through his career and potentially wasting the huge talent he was born with, but on a night when most of his teammates and opponents were taking it easy, the former Manchester United winger showed he can still make his mark at the top level.
His goal early in the second half, when he cut inside and curled a left foot shot beyond England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, was one of the best of the tournament so far and a real glimpse into Januzaj’s capabilities.
Since bursting onto the scene as a teenager under David Moyes at Old Trafford, Januzaj has drifted through loans at Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland and is now attempting to rebuild his career at Real Sociedad. Now 23, he still has time to hit the heights once again and his goal in this game will give him a real confidence boost.
When he emerged at United, he toyed with the idea of playing for England due to his eligibility for a number of international teams but he chose the country of his birth in April, 2014 when he decided to represent Belgium. He almost missed out on Roberto Martinez’s 2018 squad after a poor season in Spain but the Belgium coach showed his faith and Januzaj paid him back with his goal and performance in Kaliningrad.
In contrast, another United wonderkid had an off-night, with Marcus Rashford unable to inspire England as Januzaj did for Belgium. Rashford had the opportunity to equalise for England with a great chance but shot horribly wide instead.
Rashford and Januzaj are undeniably big talents, but they’ve both had their ups and downs.”