Belgium bests England to take top spot in Group G


Belgium beat England to top spot in their World Cup group on Thursday after Japan sneaked into the knockout phase on the back of their superior disciplinary record. "People will say it is only the right decision if we win, but we're potentially going into a match with extra time having risked players we didn't need to risk".

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"No words!" chided the best-selling Bild daily, over a picture of a despondent-looking Toni Kroos.

Meanwhile, RTE pundit Liam Brady said England's loss to Belgium demonstrated their lack of squad depth, particularly in midfield.

Reflecting on the defeat Southgate added: "It was a pretty even game".

His second-choice lineup delivered the result most English fans hoped it would; The result, perhaps, England's bench thought it would, or at least weren't concerned it might. "What this means for the next round we don't really know".

The last time England and Belgium met at a World Cup, David Platt volleyed a famous extra-time victor to send Bobby Robson's side into the quarter-finals if Italia 90.

"I don't think you can plan the ideal scenario", the Spaniard said, noting the travails of Germany and other top teams so far.

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"We´ve not won a knockout game since 2006".

In fact Pitt-Brooke considered the farcical approach to the game from both teams as against the spirit this World Cup has been played in. He is a world class striker and we want him to be ready for Colombia.

England's defeat sends them to Moscow to face Colombia - so was this the first reality check for Southgate and his players at a World Cup that has gone so smoothly or simply a glancing blow delivered in a phoney war?

Strength in depth?- The number of changes that both sides made may have disappointed fans who wanted to see a full blooded encounter, but it did give us the chance to see how strong the "second choice" players were for both sides.

"And, yeah, maybe we could have pushed a bit more by putting other players into the game tonight, but we still created chances, we had one absolutely fantastic chance to tie the game".

If the match is a draw, with the two countries already joint on points, goals scored and goals conceded, it will come down to fair play.

"I think it will be an interesting game, a 50-50 game, and both teams are qualified so it will be a unusual game", said Fellaini, who plays in England for Manchester United, having made his name for another Premier League club Everton. But the prospect of trying to pick up some sneaky yellow cards, a move which backfired quite spectacularly for David Beckham in a 2004 World Cup qualifier, has not even been broached with the squad, Southgate said. I know in some quarters that will be criticised but I am entirely comfortable with that. The last of these came 12 years ago against Ecuador.

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?