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Countdown to kick-off: England V Belgium


After both securing their place in the knock out stages of the competition, England and Belgium will be fighting for first and second place in their group when they play each other tonight

Traditionally, finishing first in the group can mean an easier route to the final however, a first place finish for The Three Lions could result in a quarter final clash between Brazil or Mexico. Finishing second could mean a quarter fixture against Sweden or Switzerland.

Despite this, Gareth Southgate said his England side will always strive to win, regardless of who that means they will play next.

He said: “We want to keep winning football matches and we want to breed a mentality that everybody in our squad wants to constantly win.

“We’ve not won a knockout game since 2006. Why we are starting to plot which would be a better venue for our semi-final is beyond me.

“We have no idea who, when, or where we will play in the next round. But we’re pleased that we’re in the next round.”

After their 2-0 defeat to South Korea last night, Germany suffered a shock exit from the World Cup, proving that there are no easy games in international football, according to Southgate.

He added: “In sport and life you’ve got to keep evolving and improving and it just shows anybody is vulnerable on any given day.”

The manager has fielded very similar sides in the games against Tunisia and Panama, and there is speculation that other players may be given a chance to shine.

Southgate always remains tight-lipped when it comes to the team he will put out however, Marcus Rashford and Gary Cahill may be recalled and Eric Dier is likely to start ahead of Jordan Henderson.

Midfielder Dele Alli, who suffered a muscle problem against Tunisia, trained on Wednesday but is unlikely to be risked.

The Belgium team will be very familiar to English fans, with a host of players from the Premier League representing the national side.

Manchester United Striker Romelu Lukaku has been ruled with injury, while Kevin De Bruyne, Thomas Meunier and Jan Verthonghen are a booking away from a ban and unlikely to play for Belgium.

Belgium Head Coach Roberto Martinez said: “The difficulty that we have in Belgium is that we have too many players that deserve to win the World Cup.

“Anyone could play. If that’s the case, they need to be ready, to be the ambassadors of our game in Belgium.”

After winning their first two group games, both national teams appear to be equal in form and strength, and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford said England, “need to be on their A-game”.

Captain Harry Kane is the current top goal scorer in the tournament and Southgate faces a dilemma after Kane said to the press earlier in the week he wanted to play rather than be rested.

England v Belgium is live on ITV from 6.15pm.


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