Belgium wins top of group G to face Japan in the Knock-out stages after defeating England as Gareth Southgate men to face Colombia after falling behind as runner up with six points.
Only Goal of the game from Manchester United flop Adnan Januzaj, stuck an excellent 51st minute shot past his former Sunderland team-mate Jordan Pickford did it feel a little bit familiar, a little bit here-we-go-again, a little bit like England had missed an opportunity to have a real go against a Belgian reserve team, win the group and keep the feelgood factor going through another summer weekend?
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
England: Pickford, Jones, Stones (Maguire 45), Cahill, Alexander-Arnold (Welbeck 79), Loftus-Cheek, Dier, Delph, Rose, Rashford, Vardy.
Subs not used: Butland, Walker, Lingard, Henderson, Kane, Sterling, Trippier, Young, Alli, Pope.
Belgium: Courtois, Dendoncker, Boyata, Vermaelen (Kompany 74), Chadli, Fellaini, Dembele, T. Hazard, Januzaj (Mertens 86), Batshuayi, Tielemans.
Subs not used: Mignolet, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Witsel, De Bruyne, Lukaku, E. Hazard, Carrasco, Meunier, Casteels.
Booked: Tielemans, Dendoncker
Goal: Januzaj 51
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Southgate wasn’t doing anything different to his opposite No; indeed Martinez had announced his plan to make massive changes 24 hours before England played their second group game. Equally, the need to nurse key individuals through the demands of a tournament was illustrated by John Stones’ disappearance at half-time, replaced by Harry Maguire. He sat on the bench, strapping on his left leg. It would be mad to take a chance in the circumstances.
England started well and a poor pass was pounced on by Jamie Vardy after two minutes, his cross kicked clear by Thibaut Courtois – but from that point Belgium were the stronger attacking force. In the sixth minute, Youri Tielemans hit a corking shot from outside the area that seemed to startle Pickford who did well to get his body in the right position to parry. Soon after, a Marouane Fellaini header was close to being turned in by Michy Batshuayi but Pickford smothered it, before losing it, and the ball was cleared off the line by Gary Cahill.
The goalkeeper has been very lightly raced at this tournament so far, and this was not his best work.
Fellaini continued causing problems, too. In the 27th minute, a corner from Thorgan Hazard somehow dropped onto his chest and he had time to bring it down before his low shot was blocked on its was to goal.
All the time, Belgium were picking up yellow cards, adding to the false sense of security that they did not want to win this, Senegal having already exited the tournament having picked up more yellow cards than Japan. Already one up – so, in real terms, down – on England in bookings, Tielemans and Leander Dendocker were both cautioned for lunging challenges on Rose.
England’s best chances, as ever, were from set pieces: a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner met at the far post by Cahill, a Ruben Loftus-Cheek header wide from the same source.
There was a lovely, fluid build-up after 14 minutes that saw Phil Jones feed Alexander-Arnold and Vardy glance a header wide, but Belgium’s reserves had the best of it. When Rashford curled a shot just wide after 48 minutes, it was a rare moment of inspiration for England.