England in easier half of World Cup knockout draw

England WAGs dinner

There was something a touch Romantic about the way Germany were knocked out of the World Cup as Gareth Southgate simultaneously addressed the world knowing England are already through to the last 16, regardless of the result against Belgium.

The Samurai Blue, you'll recall, benefitted from an aberration on Matchday 1 when Colombia's Carlos Sanchez earned the second-fastest red card in World Cup history. Perhaps it is a case of damned if he did and damned if he didn't in terms of the changes to his team, but by failing to avoid defeat, have England lost crucial momentum, and have they set themselves up for a fall?

Southgate labelled the Colombia match England's "biggest game for a decade", so was comfortable defending himself when asked if he had a responsibility to fans and the tournament to have winning matches as his top priority.

Opposite number Roberto Martinez is expected to make wholesale changes to his team, with Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku nearly certain to miss out after picking up an ankle knock in Belgium´s 5-2 win over Tunisia.

"We know the areas we need to improve".

Belgium face Group H victor Japan on Monday but a win there would mean a quarter-final against Brazil or Mexico.

"It's a painful memory but I think now is the right moment to avenge that generation", Michel Preud'homme, the keeper that day, told public broadcaster RTBF as a new "golden generation" of Belgian talent eyes the country's first ever major trophy. The knockout game is the important one.

Playing Colombia will be harder than playing Japan (who we would have played if we won tonight), but it does mean an easier draw after that - dodging Brazil.

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In fact Pitt-Brooke considered the farcical approach to the game from both teams as against the spirit this World Cup has been played in. "We had a couple of good chances in the second half".

"When you're a leader and a manager, you have got to make decisions that are right for your group and are right for the primary objective", the Three Lions boss said.

The match, the final game in the Group Stage for each team, will be simulcast in Spanish from Telemundo, the exclusive Spanish-language home of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

It was the game, and group, that no one wanted to win.

"On the pitch, we were just thinking of having fun", said 21-year-old attacking midfielder Youri Tielemans, who forced England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford into an excellent save with a long-range effort in the first half.

The Belgians did have couple chances to extend their lead in the closing stages, but the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens could not take advantage as the clash ended 1-0.

This added individual wrinkle - along with the players' natural competitiveness - will certainly effect how both sides approach tomorrow's match.

"There was a lot of tension in the air today and, in that regard, I think my team did very well". "Maybe then", said the Belgium coach, "Platt's goal would have been a little bit of a memory for everyone".

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