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World Cup: Belgium defeat England 1-0 to top their group
Belgium’s Red Devils proved victorious in the third and final match of their group stage at Kaliningrad stadium on Monday evening.
They now face Japan in the knockout stage of the World Cup on Monday evening, while England will meet higher-ranked Colombia on Tuesday.
With both teams guaranteed qualification and uncertainty over whether it would be strategically best to finish either first or second in the group, each sported largely B teams in order to rest key players. Belgium, under manager Roberto Martinez, made nine changes to its team, England eight.
If the game was rather subdued – despite vocal presence by both sets of fans - the Red Devils proved to be more competitive with some early attempts on goal. Six minutes into the second half, Adnan Januzaj bent a beautiful left foot shot into the top corner to put Belgium in the lead.
After a lackluster start, England responded with some more energetic play, but despite a couple of missed opportunities, were unable to equalise. It was a worthy result for the Red Devils who carried more of a threat throughout the match.
While Belgium will be the favourites to win against Japan (61st in Fifa’s world rankings), their route to the final could be more tortuous with Brazil, Portugal, France and even Argentina ready to block their path.
If England overcome Colombia (ranked 16th) on Tuesday, then it may be Sweden or Switzerland trying to prevent them from advancing further.
Photo: Dirk Waem/BELGA