Gareth Southgate: England players fully behind my Belgium decisions

Jun 29, 2018, 18:47
Gareth Southgate: England players fully behind my Belgium decisions

Football is about winning but when England faceoff against Belgium in their final group match, both teams could be forgiven for not wanting to come out on top.

The Three Lions will be hoping to win their first knockout match since 2006 in Moscow next Tuesday, when widespread changes are again on the cards after their squad players struggled against Roberto Martinez's reserves.

Despite a huge scare for Lionel Messi´s Argentina, who needed a late goal from Marcos Rojo to edge through to the knockout phase on Tuesday, all of the tournament´s remaining big guns are through to the last 16 in Russian Federation.

"We want to win the game, that would mean we would top the group, and we play who we play in the next round", Southgate added.

But Southgate did concede he would probably make some changes for a clash that neither side needs to win.

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

Harry Kane's involvement is one of the tricky decisions facing Southgate.

As England move into the World Cup knockout stage, what are the lessons of their setback in Kaliningrad?

Topping Group "G" means playing whoever will have finished second in Group H earlier on Thursday - Colombia, Senegal or Japan.

Belgium, meanwhile, are on the same side of the bracket as Brazil, Mexico, France, Argentina, Uruguay and Portugal, but Alexander-Arnold rejected the thought that England were not too unhappy to finish as Group G runners-up.

When the two sides meet in Kaliningrad on Thursday in their first competitive encounter since that night in Bologna when England won 1-0, there is little at stake on the face of it since both are sure to progress from Group G to the last 16.

Similarly Dele Alli, who missed the Panama win with injury, will feature at some point this evening, and he'll need to put in a good shift to force his way back into the starting line-up after a poor display against Tunisia.

"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".

"There was a lot of tension in the air today and, in that regard, I think my team did very well". The match came to be known as the Disgrace of Gijon. "You want to win every game".

Regardless, it's ironic that fair play points - the signifier of the team who, in theory, has played the most within the "spirit of the game" - could be the thing that separates the two sides and lead to an easier run at winning the World Cup. If that is the case then England will be happier with the result at the end of the day but can any team really go out and aim to get beaten?

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