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Belgium v England Third Place Play-off

England failed to best their Italia ’90 side, having to be satisfied with a fourth place finish after they were outplayed in St Petersburg.

With both teams weary from a pair of punishing semi-final bouts, England’s injury ridden clash with Croatia in particular, both sides could be forgiven for playing their B-teams in this match as they did earlier in the tournament, especially with the Premier League kicking off in just under a month. However, both teams put forward their big guns, with Kane, Rose, Trippier and Dier for England and Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Lukaku for Belgium, in one final push for World Cup glory.

The First Half

The tone of the game was set early on, with Belgium finding the back of the net within the first 5 minutes, with a cross from the left-wing by  West Brom’s Nacer Chadli finding the feet of Thomas Meunier as the English defence failed to catch up.

England had a couple more chances at a goal before the whistle, but at half-time the score still sat at 1 – 0. Bad news for England if you are the superstitious type; Belgium haven’t lost a game they were leading at half-time since a 5-2 defeat to Germany all the way back in 1934.

The Second Half

Within the first minute, Gareth Southgate had swapped Raheem Sterling for Marcus Rashford and Danny Rose for Jesse Lingard, but to no avail. There was a moment of magic from Eric Dier as he managed to beat Thibaut Courtois, looking to add to his sterling penalty shot that won England the game against Colombia. But this hope was also dashed, as Toby Alderweireld steamed past to get his shin to it at the last second, deflecting it away.

Toby could be seen comforting his Spurs teammate but with his position at the club still up for debate, with interest registered by Manchster United, we will have to wait and see if he will be bringing this prodigious defensive capability back to North London. Mousa Dembele was bought on to help Belgium get clear of England, but that was to come at the feet of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. With a few well placed crosses, the English defence was picked apart and it was the work of but a moment for Hazard to slot it past Jordan Pickford, securing Belgium’s third place victory.

Dele Alli was England’s final substitution of the World Cup in a last effort to claw back the game, coming on for Reuben Loftus-Cheeek, yet it wasn’t to be. The rest of the game passed without major incident, save for the booking of Belgium’s Axel Witsel in minute 93′, and with that, England were 4th and Belgium were 3rd, with the only game left to play being the 4-2 victory to France against Croatia to secure the overall tournament win.