In the final match of Group G, England missed the chance to top the table as an Adnan Januzaj wonder strike led Belgium to victory. In a game which saw very little entertainment but a number of talking points:
ANALYSIS: 5 talking points as Januzaj sees off England
It was widely reported that both sides were looking to rest key players for the forthcoming knock-out stages. Belgian coach Roberto Martinez said pre-match: “We want to perform well, but the priority is not to win.”
With a potential easier route to the final for whoever finished second, both teams limited their attacks. The biggest threat of the first half was Pickford nearly bundling the ball into his own net. With a number of players gaining their first minutes at the tournament, it was clear that many were rusty. This may have proven costly to players looking to be in Southgate’s thoughts going into the Colombia game.
Lack of Creativity
With the pace of Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy up top for England you’d have expected the midfielders to use the speed advantage. With many through-balls for the forwards to latch onto. They didn’t do this, with Loftus-Cheek and Dier choosing to play the simple ball sideways or behind. The game was dull and crying out for creativity. Fans made their feelings known at half time by booing the players off the pitch.
You could sense the lack of confidence from English midfield, trying to play between the lines, rarely affecting the Belgian back line in the same way Lingard has done. The England players will want to excite the fans, as they have done in the opening two fixtures.
Nervous Pickford beaten by Januzaj
Everton number one Jordan Pickford would have liked to keep a clean sheet in one of the three group games. This would have filled the former Sunderland stopper with confidence entering the knock out stages. That hasn’t been the case. Though he stood little chance with the penalty against Tunisia or the Panama strike, many believed he looked nervous against Belgium.
Parrying a Tielemans shot into the danger area should have have been dealt with by Pickford. He was also pleased to see Gary Cahill clear the ball off the line. There was also little for he could do against the quality of Januzaj, as the Belgian hit a sublime winning strike past the England number one in the second half. Not one of his best performances.
Southgate won’t make a Rash decision over Marcus
With many wanting Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford to partner captain Harry Kane, this game was a chance for him to cement a spot for the knock-out stages. Unfortunately, Rashford wasn’t able to deliver. Not because he didn’t take his chances, there was a lack of service to himself and Jamie Vardy. Many of their openings came from the pair’s hard work to win the ball back.
The clash will leave Rashford will be disappointed with his teammates. It could have affected Southgate’s decision to go with Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling for the Colombia game.
Though he will be unhappy with the decision, it’s therefore likely Rashford will be employed as super-sub. A role in which he has excelled.
What does Southgate’s England do now?
As England face Colombia next Tuesday, Gareth Southgate is sure to revert to the side which saw off Panama with ease on Sunday. Deli Alli will look to reclaim his spot as Loftus-Cheek failed to shine the last two games.
The presence of characters such as Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane were a big miss against Belgium. Southgate, ergo, will be keen to get the team ticking again. Particularly as they have been given the so-called easier route to a potential final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on the 14th July.
Remember when there were calls for Adnan Januzaj to play for #ENG?
He's scored his first international goal tonight.
— BBC 5 live Sport (@5liveSport) June 28, 2018