Belgium to top England in World Cup third-place match

    13 Jul 2018 | World Cup | Preview
    Belgium to top England in World Cup third-place match

    Belgium play England in the World Cup third-place match on Saturday afternoon. The two nations will meet in St. Petersburg just 16 days after their last meeting. Belgium topped England during their Group G clash in Kaliningrad.

    Now, the Belgians look to put their semifinal disappointment behind them with another win against the English.

    England will feel like they let their semifinal clash with Croatia slip through their hands. The Three Lions went up 1-0 after five minutes and striker Harry Kane should have doubled their lead minutes later. However, England came out flat in the second half, giving Croatia the chance to make a comeback. England's tired defenders weren't able to stop a Mario Mandzukic goal in extra-time.

    Belgian's semifinal was far different. Roberto Martinez's team were just outplayed and couldn't find a way through France's defence. Belgium only managed three shots on target.

    Saturday's third-place match will be far different to the one played in the group stage. When the teams met in their Group G finale, both side had already booked their places in the round of 16. Martinez and England manager Gareth Southgate both made large changes to their starting XIs. This time around, both managers will pick their strongest squads. Although Belgium will have plenty of high-quality talent in their XI, Southgate's team should be the one to receive a bigger boast. The gulf in quality between Southgate's preferred XI and the team's back-ups is much larger than Belgium's.

    Southgate may have one injury worry. Midfielder Jordan Henderson limped off during the semifinal against Croatia. He is suffering from a hamstring injury, which will take time to heal fully. He could miss out on the semifinal with Eric Dier taking his place. Southgate may also start Marcus Rashford over the misfiring Raheem Sterling. The Manchester City forward has been criticised for his poor shooting and passing during the tournament. Rashford offers similar pace and could get the nod on Saturday.

    Martinez has shifted between 3-4-2-1 and 4-2-3-1 formations during the tournament. He could choose the more attacking three-man backline against England. It would match-up with England's three-man defence. England's attack, though pacey, has failed to score many goals from open play. The team has tallied nine of 12 goals at the World Cup from set pieces or penalties.

    Belgium should see the return of starting right-back Thomas Meunier. He missed the semifinal through suspension. Nacer Chadli was shoehorned into the position despite being a midfielder. France exposed Chadli's defensive weaknesses which helped lead to Belgium's demise.

    Both nations will be happy with their performances at this year's World Cup. Mental strength will come into play in the third-place match along with physical performance. Belgium will edge out England for third place having one more day to recoup from their gruelling semifinal. The English will have nothing to be ashamed of, but the Three Lions probably will lose to Belgium for a second time.

    Predictions for World Cup

    Home team - Away team Tip
    flag_89 WC
    FranceCroatia
    15/07/2018 16:00
    X
    flag_89 WC
    BelgiumEngland
    14/07/2018 15:00
    1
    flag_89 WC
    CroatiaEngland
    11/07/2018 19:00
    X
    flag_89 WC
    FranceBelgium
    10/07/2018 19:00
    2

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