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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 18 May 2021


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Hello! And welcome to our live coverage of this afternoon’s World Cup third place play-off.

This is the game no footballer on earth wants to play in, battling it out for the bronze medal.

Both Belgium and England came up short in the final four and now have to put on a brave face to slug it out one last time, attempting to leave Russia on a high note here today.

Following their 2-1 extra time defeat to Croatia, it turns out football is not coming home for Gareth Southgate’s boys.

They exceeded all expectations after the Three Lions finished bottom of their group four years ago, but will forever hold onto the thought of what might have been.

That same thought might cross the minds of Roberto Martinez & Co.

This golden generation of players just hasn’t delivered on the world stage for Belgium just yet, and with a number of their star players already approaching their 30s, they will have regrets of their own following a terse 1-0 semi-final defeat to France.

Kick-off in Saint Petersburg is coming up in just under an hour at 3pm!

Let’s get started with the team news…

So, today’s teams will look like this:

Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, Chadli; De Bruyne, Lukaku, Hazard

Subs: Mignolet, Casteels, Vermaelen, Boyata, Dendoncker, Fellaini, Dembélé, Carrasco, T. Hazard, Mertens, Januzaj, Batshuayi

England: Pickford; Stones, Jones, Maguire; Trippier, Dier, Delph, Loftus-Cheek, Rose; Sterling, Kane

Subs: Walker, Lingard, Henderson, Vardy, Buland, Welbeck, Cahill, Young, Rashford, Alli, Alexander-Arnold, Pope

Right, with a little under 20 minutes to go before we get underway, who’s going to come out on top and take the bronze medal this afternoon?

Poll Results:

Belgium (601)
England (102)


GOOOOOOALLLL! After a slow-paced opening period Belgium spring this game into life with a goal after just four minutes. Some great work from Eden Hazard sees the ball lofted into the danger zone. Thomas Meunier beats Danny Rose to the ball and prods it past Jordan Pickford and into the back of the net. 1-0 Belgium!

A really promising start to this game from Roberto Martinez’s men. His side have a golden chance to nab a second following one of their brilliantly effective counter-attacks. The ball is fed to Kevin De Bruyne, but with a back-peddling English defence at his mercy the Man City playmaker can only provide a sloppy backheel to no-man’s land. He should have done a lot better, and the Three Lions breath a collective sigh of relief.


England come to life and offer their first real sight at goal. Space and time opens up for Fabian Delph, but his low shot from distance is straight at Thibaut Courtois who gathers with relative ease.


Romelu Lukaku presented with a golden opportunity to score his fourth goal of this summer’s World Cup. A hat-trick today would hand him the Golden Boot, but the Man United striker can’t make the most of Kevin De Bruyne’s through ball as Pickford dives low to gather.


Ruben Loftus-Cheek does really well inside the box, dancing and dribbling past a host of challenges. He bides his time smartly before pulling a cross into the mixer, but Vincent Kompany reads the danger before booting the ball out for a corner. No nonsense defending.


Harry Maguire rises high to meet the corner, but his header lacks power and is right at Courtois. England have had so much success from set-pieces at this year’s World Cup, and that emphasis doesn’t seem to be letting up today.


Chance! Raheem Sterling puts the ball on a plate for Harry Kane, but the skipper scuffs his shot well wide of the target. It was such a neat set-up from Sterling on the edge of the box, but Kane appeared to make a really wayward connection with the ball in order to send it flying wide. Uncharacteristic from him.


Youri Tielemans unleashes an almighty effort right on the edge of the area. John Stones emerges from a gang of bodies inside the box to heroically charge down the danger and block the shot to safety.


Another break from Belgium on the counter and they really will be wondering how they aren’t more than goal ahead here. A cross into the box causes panic, but this time Kieran Trippier is on hand to nod the ball out for a corner.


The corner is easily cleared at the first hurdle and this game has transgressed into a real end-to-end encounter here. Both midfields being completely bypassed in favour of more direct outlets on the wing. Raheem Sterling is doing well to get on the ball, but his final ball just hasn’t really been up so scratch so far.



Belgium break down the right wing, with Meunier’s cross poor and easily cleared. The problem for England, though, is that they aren’t able to hold onto possession at the moment. The ball is fed straight back to Belgium, who seem almost to be camped inside the opposition final third waiting and probing for chances to emerge.


There will be two minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.


Well, what have we made of it so far? Predictably, it hasn’t been the sort of highly-competitive, tense affair we might have wanted — but then again, it is a third place play-off.

Neither side wanted to be playing in this game, but they have been slugging it out to the best of their ability given the circumstances. Belgium have been the better side, and really should be more than goal to the good at the break.

Thomas Meunier’s clever finish handed Roberto Martinez’s men a fourth minute lead, and from there they have went in search of more. England have threatened occasionally, but have been very sloppy in possession.

More action to come shortly!


Two switches from Gareth Southgate at the break as Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard come off the bench in place of Danny Rose and Raheem Sterling.


Chance! Kieran Trippier curls a dangerous cross into the box where John Stones looked all but certain to head his side level. The Man City defender leapt high, but was denied the chance from close range thanks to a crucial interception from the left leg of Jan Vertonghen.


Shot! Jesse Lingard nearly finds the back of the net from a wayward angle. The substitute went untracked inside the box, but his effort just didn’t have enough whip and bend to find Thibaut Courtois’s bottom corner. A decent effort, and you have to say England have been considerably better since the interval.


Substitution: Dries Mertens replaces Romelu Lukaku for Belgium.


Lukaku’s hopes of getting the Golden Boot are over as the striker comes off visibly disappointed. The 25-year-old has four goals to his name at this summer’s World Cup, but passed up a number of decent chances to add to that total this afternoon.


Tackle! Fabian Delph with a brilliant challenge to deny a certain second for Belgium. Meunier did really well with an overlapping run onto Eden Hazard’s pass, but Delph did superbly to recover and slide the ball into touch as substitute Merterns loomed for what would have been a certain tap-in to make it 2-0. Paul McGrath-esque it was.


A really swift counter from Belgium punishes a poor corner routine from England. Southate’s side lined their men up in a straight line as they have done all tournament, but the delivery was really poor.

De Bruyne led the charge on the counter and it looked to be a like-for-like replica of their stoppage time winner against Japan. England were at sixes and sevens, but the final ball into the path of Tielemans was really poor as the move broke down in disappointing fashion.


So close! Oh goodness, Eric Dier. The Tottenham midfielder did absolutely superbly to put himself into a one vs one situation against Thibaut Courtois. He beared down on goal and executed a decent chip over the goalkeeper, but his effort lacked the power to carry it over the line as Toby Alderweireld did brilliantly to recover and dash the ball away at the last possible second. The drama.


Dier with another chance, this time with his head. He latches onto a volley sprayed across the goalmouth from the right boot of Marcus Rashford, but his header lacks direction and bounces wide of the post. England really on top now.


A third chance in as many minutes for England. This time Harry Maguire rises high inside the box, but once again his header misses the target. “Slab head”, as Brian Kerr refers to the defender in commentary, owing to his new Jamie Vardy-inspired nickname.


Save! What a move, what a strike, but what a save! Belgium engineer a sublime counter attack which concludes with a volley from Thomas Meunier at the back post. It was perfect, silky passing from the Red Devils, but the midfielder’s effort produced a brilliant stop from Jordan Pickford.


GOOOOOOOAL! Belgium double their lead and it’s a superb finish from Eden Hazard. The Chelsea winger dribbles cooly inside the box, leaving Phil Jones for dead. The defender really didn’t cover himself in glory there, with Hazard skipping past before firing a low finish into the bottom left corner to make it 2-0. Excellent, excellent finish.


Despite England enjoying a much, much better second half, they have once again been found wanting at the back. Hazard is enjoying so much freedom in the final third, as is Kevin De Bruyne. Southgate’s side have really dropped off over the last 15 minutes — the fight looks all but out of them at this stage.



Unless either Kylian Mbappe or Antoine Griezmann can replicate Geoff Hurst and score a hat-trick against Croatia tomorrow, the Golden Boot is all but Harry Kane’s. The Tottenham striker managed an impressive six goals, but bizarrely has not had a huge impact on this summer’s competition.


There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the second half.

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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