With England and Belgium sealing their spots in the round of 16 with two victories in the bag, this fixture, which was touted to be one of the most anticipated ones in the group stages of the World Cup, will take on less significance now as both the teams will look to rest key players and give some game time to the reserves. However, Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate will want their squads to be in the greatest of spirits and high in confidence when they enter the knockout stages of the tournament. Hence, we expect the managers to field relatively strong lineups still to preserve their perfect record in the group stages.
- Belgium boast one of the most well rounded and balanced squads in the tournament, with adequate strength in depth in all positions of the field, while the same cannot be said about England’s midfield and defence.
- With the in-form pair of Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, playmaker Kevin de Bruyne and Napoli frontman Dries Mertens, Belgium’s star-studded attack can cause trouble to even the sturdiest of defences.
- England on the other hand have heavily relied on Harry Kane’s goals and set pieces and the supporting cast will need to step up if the team wants to reach the further stages of the tournament.
- Belgium have fielded the silk and steel combination of De Bruyne and Witsel, with Dembele, Fellaini and Tielemans amongst others who can be called upon to make an impact. England’s midfield three consists of Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli, with Eric Dier the only experienced option on the bench for this position.
- In defence, Spurs pair Vertonghen and Alderweireld along with Celtic man Boyata have been started as part of a three-man defence, while England are expected to continue with an identical set-up of Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire and John Stones.However, Belgium possess more experienced and reliable options on the bench if required to be called upon.
- This year, Belgium have played six matches in the run-up to the World Cup preparations and the Belgians won four of them, drawing the other two.
- England also played six friendlies, winning three while drawing blanks against Germany, Brazil and Italy.
- Gareth Southgate was the manager of Middlesbrough from 2006 to 2009. He was the manager of the England under-21 side from 2013 to 2016 before being handed the reigns of the national team temporarily post the sacking of Sam Allardyce. After an impressive run of form over two months, he was given a four-year contract.
- Roberto Martinez managed Swansea City in the the league one and championship before leading Wigan and Everton in the Premier League for four and three years respectively. He secured promotion to the championship for Swansea and won the FA cup with Wigan in 2013.