FINAL SCORE: Belgium 2 - England 0
It was a match that at times lacked effort, but two beautiful moments from Belgium gave one of the most likable teams of the tournament third place.
The third-place match is always a strange game, as it usually features two teams that have no interest in being there. At times this match felt that way, as the effort was, let’s say, uneven. Defending in midfield was at times non-existent.
Belgium to their credit played an extremely strong lineup, nearly replicating the team they’ve put out for most of the tournament. And that strong lineup caught England off guard early, when Nacer Chadli broke down the left wing and played in a cross to Thomas Meunier, who beat Danny Rose to the ball and clattered home a finish.
Form there the match settled down in a big way, though in the second half England did push forward, committing men to the box and trying to nab the equalizer. Unfortunately that opened up the field for the counter-attack, which Belgium repeatedly took advantage of, though they weren’t able to capitalize until the 82nd minute, when Eden Hazard broke through on a beautiful through ball from Kevin De Bruyne and finished hard past Jordan Pickford.
All in all a fine match between two teams that perhaps overachieved this World Cup, and ignited hope and all that other good stuff for their fanbases in the process.
Highlights and commentary:
82’ — And there’s the second goal! Eden Hazard gets in behind on a beautiful pass from Kevin De Bruyne.
De Bruyne gets the ball in the midfield and gets his head up, and that’s all he needs. Finds Hazard in, who holds off the defender, looks off Pickford, and fires in low left.
80’ — OK that Belgian counter-attack was awesome. Mertens had a bizarre cross at the end, though Meunier absolutely ripped through the ball and Pickford did well to keep it out.
78’ — Belgium sub, Mousa Dembele has finally entered the match, I guess to see it out. England has been going for it lately, though Belgium look dangerous on the counter-attack. I guess.
70’ — Eric Dier (!) of all people just broke down the Belgian defense, chipped the keeper, but it’s cleared off the line by his Tottenham teammate Toby Alderweireld.
58’ — Lukaku is subbed out, all but guaranteeing the Golden Boot for Harry Kane, unless Dejan Lovren goes and bags seven tomorrow in the final.
46’ — Second half underway.
Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard have entered for England. Maybe they’ll do something.
HALFTIME. Belgium 1 - England 0
That was a half of soccer. It occurred.
Meunier got the goal in the fourth minute. Chadli had to leave with a hamstring strain. Harry Kane shanked a shot. That just about does it. Anyone read any good books lately?
39’ — They brought on Thomas Vermaelen for Chadli, a perfect sub to execute Bobby Martinez’s plan for this game of “whatever.”
36’ — Nacer Chadli, who had the assist on the opener, makes a long run, then pulls up with what looks to be a hamstring strain, and will need to be subbed off. Probably Mousa Dembele coming on for him.
33’ — Nevermind. Tennis is over. Welcome back. What you missed: Belgium passed around some. Fabian Delph just jogged a bit.
31’ — I guess Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are involved in a good tennis match right now at Wimbledon. Listen, I’m not going to tell you what to do. I’m just telling you there’s a tennis match on and I’m guessing they’re running harder than the midfielders in this game.
24’ — Harry Kane has an opportunity when Raheem Sterling lays the ball off to him, but he yanks the shot just wide. A few minutes ago Romelu Lukaku had a chance but bungled his touch and couldn’t convert.
In related news, Harry Kane is leading Lukaku with 6 goals to 4 goals in the tournament, respectively. So that’s something people are competing for.
4’ — Thomas Meunier scores for Belgium almost immediately. This is why we watch the third-place game. Because defense is terrible, everyone’s just trying to score, and the soccer is silly.
10 a.m. ET — Here we go. You might remember that these two teams faced off earlier in the tournament in a somewhat pointless match that neither much cared to win.
And now, again, amazingly, we get them in another World Cup showdown that is a somewhat pointless match that neither much probably care to win.
Strong lineups for both teams! England brings in Danny Rose to replace Ashley Young, and does an overhaul of their midfield, with the introduction of Eric Dier, Fabian Delph, and Phil Jones. Ruben Loftus-Cheek also gets a start.
For Belgium, the lineup is more or less what we’ve seen (it’s been changing a lot), with the introduction of Youri Tielemans into the midfield.
England vs. Belgium Time, TV channel, and streaming info
Time: 10 a.m. ET
Location: Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg, Russia
TV: Fox (English), Telemundo (Spanish)
The 2018 World Cup is ready for the final, but not before England and Belgium see the field for one more chance to play in the third-place play-off match. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. ET at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, and you can watch it on Fox and Telemundo. Online streaming is available in English through Fox Sports Go here or in Spanish through Telemundo here.
England last played in the third-place play-off match in 1990 where they lost and finished the tournament in fourth. Belgium’s best finish at a World Cup was a fourth-place finish in 1986 with a loss in the third-place play-off.
England vs. Belgium news to read before kickoff
England lost, 2-1, to Croatia in the World Cup semifinals on Wednesday. All in all, it was classic World Cup form for the English. Their hope in the shape of a genuinely beautiful free kick goal by Kieran Trippier, a lead that felt like a death sentence, and the creeping, inevitable collapse in extra time. It was English football the way mum made it: Valiant and ultimately futile.
It’s a tricky gig, being a World Cup Dark Horse. There’s a lot to balance. A team has to be dangerous, but cannot be overwhelmingly favoured. They must be interesting without being too obvious. They have to make a splash in the tournament: purr through the groups, perhaps, or knock out somebody big. But they probably shouldn’t win the thing. That would just be embarrassing. So, props to Belgium. They absolutely nailed it.