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Dublin: 10ยฐC Thursday 29 October 2020


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Hello! And welcome to our live coverage of tonight’s intriguing Group G decider between England and Belgium.

This is a very, very weird game. From the outside looking in, it’s a match to decide the mighty group winner — therefore, in theory, both sides should be gunning for a win which will see them fly into the knockout stages in a blaze of undefeated glory.

But that’s not how it is.

There have been suggestions all week that neither team will actually want to win this game. That is because the winner of Group G goes into the tricky half of the draw alongside teams like France, Argentina, Portugal, Brazil and Uruguay.

Whoever loses will suffer the setback of finishing second in the group (oh the shame!), but will be rewarded with an easier bath to the final — one which starts with a last 16 meeting with Columbia and then takes in potential sides like Switzerland, Sweden, Croatia, Denmark, Spain and Russia.

They won’t admit it for one second, but both England and Belgium might not be too upset to lose here tonight. It is completely and utterly bizarre.

Let’s get started with the team news. There are changes galore for both teams…

So, this evening’s teams will line out as:

England: Pickford, Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Cahill, Jones, Rose, Dier, Delph, Loftus-Cheek, Rashford, Vardy

Belgium: Courtois, Dendoncker, Boyata, Vermaelen, Chadli, Dembélé, Fellaini, Tielemans, T. Hazard, Januzaj, Batshuayi

Gareth Southgate makes eight changes from the side that hammered Panama 6-1 on Sunday, with only Jordan Pickford, goal machine John Stones and Ruben Loftus-Cheek remaining.

Roberto Martinez has opted for nine changes from the side which beat Tunisia on Saturday – Thibaut Courtois and Dedryck Boyata remaining, while players like Thomas Vermaelen, Nacer Chadli, Michy Batshuayi, Mousa Dembele, Marouane Fellaini, Thorgan Hazard and Adnan Januzaj enter the fray.

With just 45 minutes to go before kick-off, how do we see this one going? Let us know below!

Poll Results:

Draw (159)
Belgium win (151)
England win (116)

A big talking point ahead of tonight’s game sees neither Harry Kane or Romelu Lukaku starting up front in Kaliningrad.

The build-up to this game hinged on the sub-plot of the Golden Boot race between the Tottenham and Man United strikers.

Kane currently leads the scoring charts at this summer’s World Cup with five goals in two games, while Lukaku lags just one strike behind with a brace each against Panama and Tunisia.

It will be a lesser game without the pair (Lukaku ruled out through an ankle injury and Kane rested by Gareth Southgate), but to be quite frank nobody knows what kind of a game this is going to be for those aforementioned reasons of wanting to finish second.

Facing Colombia will undoubtedly be a tough test in the last 16, but navigating through the competition by steering clear of teams like Argentina, France, Brazil, Uruguay and Portugal on the trickier side of the draw would be a godsend.

The teams are making their way out onto the pitch at the 35,000-seater Kaliningrad Stadium and we’re just a matter of moments away now.


Chance! An exciting first couple of minutes sees a cross flash across Thibaut Courtois’s box dramatically.

It was a horror back-pass from Eden Hazard directly into the path of Jamie Vardy — the Leicester striker did well to get a low cross away from a tricky angle, but there was no one available to prod home from close range.


Save! A rasping shot from the boot of Youri Tielemans forces a fine save from Jordan Pickford. It was a dangerous, dipping shot which easily could have caught the England number one off guard and settled into the back of the net.

But Pickford kept his concentration to provide a powerful punch which steered the effort high and away from danger.


ALMOST. Absolute panic inside the England penalty area sees Belgium very nearly steal the lead courtesy of Michy Batshuayi.

A cross into the box was not properly dealt with by Jordan Pickford – Batshuayi almost jinked the ball over the line before his Chelsea team-mate Gary Cahill managed to scramble back just in time to hook it off the line. The drama!


Jamie Vardy flashes a header towards goal but it flies a decent few inches wide of the target. The chance was made possible thanks to some really tenacious work by 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has had the better of Eden Hazard so far this evening up and down the right flank.


Youri Tielemans is in the referee’s book for the game’s first yellow card. As Senegal proved earlier today, teams’ disciplinary record really can have a bearing in tight groups at this year’s World Cup.

It goes — points total, goal difference, head-to-head and then Fair Play points. If today’s game ends in a draw, it will go down to who has the fewest yellow/red cards to determine who finishes top of the group. Confused? I know I am.


At the moment Belgium have four yellow cards while England have just two. So, if England really do want to finish second in Group G… prepare for the possibility of seeing a few hefty challenges over the next hour.


SAVE! Jordan Pickford once again called into action to keep this game level pegging. A well manoeuvred strike came from the right boot of Marouane Fellaini, but Pickford was equal to it.

The Man United midfielder did really well to expertly chest down a corner swung in towards the edge of the box. He took it down with one touch, before striking with another, but could only see his effort clawed away off the line.


Oh! Another yellow card for Belgium. This time it’s Leander Dendoncker, who chops down Danny Rose with a rash challenge. Now then, Belgium currently have five yellow cards while England lag behind with just two. Gareth Southgate’s side in firm command of top spot in Group G as things stand.


A promising passage of play from Belgium sees the ball fall to Thorgan Hazard on the edge of the box. The Borussia Mönchengladbach playmaker tees up a shot, but can only balloon a disastrous effort all the way into Row Z. Dreadful, Thorgan.


Elsewhere in Group G, Panama have taken a 1-0 lead against Tunisia thanks to an own goal from Yassine Meriah. Neither side can progress to the knockout stages after both lost to England and Belgium in their opening set of games.

But there’s a whole bunch of national pride at stake, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?


What did we make of that? Look, it hasn’t been great. It hasn’t been dreadful, but it hasn’t been great.

No goals, a couple of yellow cards and as things stand England top the group and head into the sticky half of the draw.

Here’s how the table looks at the break:

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 20.00.46


There’s one switch for England at the break as Harry Maguire comes off the bench to replace John Stones, who seems to have picked up a slight injury.


Chance! Jamie Vardy with some good work to dispossess his opponent before feeding the ball to Marcus Rashford. The Man United striker opens up his body and takes aim for the top right corner of Thibaut Courtois’s net, but his effort curls well wide. A promising start for England… well, that is if they want to win of course. Which they do, right?


Football’s not coming home after all! Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Belgium storm into the lead with an absolute beauty from Adnan Januzaj. Remember him? The baby-faced assassin beats Danny Rose with a jink and a turn before whipping the ball into the top corner with a sumptuous effort.

England are behind for the first time at this year’s World Cup and Belgium reclaim top spot in Group G!




Look, the goal was brilliant and all… but Michy Batshuayi only went and booted the ball into his own face afterwards. He picked the ball out of the net, kicked it against the post and it flew back and smacked him. Hilarious.


England have responded reasonably well since going behind. Alexander-Arnold is getting some success bombing forward down the right and there’s a lot of space for Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to take advantage of in the middle of the pitch.


CHANCE! Marcus Rashford with a fantastic chance to level, but the Man United striker sees his effort saved by Thibaut Courtois.

It was excellent vision from Jamie Vardy to play Rashford in clean through — but he just couldn’t manage to steer the ball into the bottom corner. A really, really poor miss.


Fabian Delph sees a long-range effort heroically blocked down by Dedryck Boyata. It’s been another decent spell for England and this time Alexander-Arnold’s cross was firstly headed away, before falling invitingly for Delph to take aim. He hit it well, but the defender’s block was equal to it.


Adnan Januzaj’s brilliant strike is still the difference between the sides with a little under 20 minutes to go in Kaliningrad.

England v Belgium: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Source: Dan Mullan

England v Belgium: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

England v Belgium: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia


This is how Group G stands with 10 minutes to go. If things remain as they are, England will face Colombia in the last sixteen and avoid the trickier side of the draw which includes teams like France, Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay and Brazil. Belgium, meanwhile, will take on Japan in the knockout stages.

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 20.36.45


SAVE! Dries Mertens forces an excellent save from Jordan Pickford to keep it at 1-0. Thorgan Hazard fed the ball to Mertens on the edge of the box, the forward let fly with a powerful drive but the England goalkeeper did brilliantly to get across and palm the ball to safety.


There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come.

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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