Belgium overpower exhausted England to secure third place


Here's what happened on Saturday, in case you missed it...

In the end, the route to the final mattered little and both sides, having lost in their respective semifinals, found themselves in Saint Petersburg to contest the maligned third-place play-off, with Belgium coming out on top thanks to goals by Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard.

Belgium won 1-0 - through Adnan Januzaj's goal - and were rewarded with games against Japan, Brazil and France while England played Colombia, Sweden and Croatia but the end result for both sides was the same - semi-final elimination.

The Belgians routinely played the best soccer at this competition, sweeping aside all before them with a gorgeously entertaining style of play and a ruthlessly efficient counter-attack.

Belgium and England meet for the second time in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and this time the game is nearly as meaningless as their first meeting with only 3rd place on the line.

What now for Belgium's "Golden Generation" of players? Dier plays a one-two with Rashford to carve open the Belgium defence! Against the very best teams, we've come up short. Lukaku knocked the ball wide left to launch their first real attack of the game, Nacer Chadli had time to cross and Meunier nipped in front of a dozing Danny Rose to become the tenth player in the team to score at this tournament.

34th minute, 1-0 Belgium: Eden Hazard dances into the penalty box but his right-footed shot was blocked out of bounds for a corner. Dier chipped a shot over Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, but defender Toby Alderweireld raced back to make a stupendous sliding, goal-line clearance to deny his Tottenham teammate of a sure goal. He only had the England goalkeeper to beat.

Here's another stat on Meunier's goal.

"In the second half we played really well".

And that perhaps wasn't the best approach to take as Belgium looked set to go for the kill from the get-go. "We have put a lot into the last two years to get to this point", Eric Dier said.

It was an anticlimactic way for both these teams - who have given their fans some thrilling moments in Russian Federation - to end the World Cup but Belgium leave with a deserved piece of history.

Hazard resisted the urge to respond how many of us would have liked with the words "JESUS.GABRIEL, LET IT GO!" and instead gave a dismissive shrug with the words "pfff.I don't think about that". Its lone win came in the 1966 final against West Germany.

England coach Gareth Southgate wrapped up his news conference after his team's 2-0 loss to Belgium in the third-place playoff by thanking the people of Russian Federation for their welcome during the tournament. His six goals are three more than France's Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have entering Sunday's final. It is a style of football England will hope to adopt at the European Championships in 2020, but they're missing a genuine world class midfield player, or two. Harry does not have an injury but we will see how he feels.