England’s remarkable World Cup adventure reached a meek conclusion as Belgium beat Gareth Southgate’s men in the third-place play-off.
Still reeling from Wednesday’s heartbreaking semi-final defeat to Croatia, the Three Lions stuttered in St Petersburg as the chance to become the best-ever team to leave English shores passed them by.
ENGLAND WENT IN FOR GOLD, NOT BRONZE
It is difficult finding another justification for Gareth Southgate’s much-changed line-up except that finishing 3rd didn’t mean much to him. He made 6 changes to England’s starting line-up.
ROSE, SLOPPY AND SLOW
Returning from a knee injury is always difficult for every footballer. Danny Rose was off the pace and Thomas Meunier ‘stole’ the ball from him on two occasions in the first half. His general contribution in the first half wasn’t encouraging and needs more games to get into match fitness. It was of little surprise that he was subbed off at halftime.
ENGLAND LOOKED DISJOINTED
The 3 lions found it very difficult to ‘flow’ in possession during the first half. They were dispossessed by Belgium’s one-time too many. There was this obvious lack of cohesion when they transitioned from defence to attack. The wholesome changes made by Southgate definitely took its toll on the squad.
LUKAKU’S FIRST TOUCH ACHILLES HEEL RESURFACES
Romelu Lukaku was played through on goal on two different occasions by Kevin De Bryune, one in the first half and the other in the second half………..but his first touch let him down. He spurned two decent opportunities to add up to his tally of 4 goals. So for how long is Lukaku going to let himself and his mates down with his sloppy first touch?
All tournament long, this England side has been interested in keeping hold of the ball without making efficient attacking incursions. In honesty, no team gets worried if you keep on passing the ball amongst yourself in your own half. Guardiola famously said that “possession in itself is nothing”. They always look to send the ball wide [mostly to Trippier], waiting for crosses. They barely took long shots even when the opportunity presented itself.
Gareth Southgate has faced a lot of criticism for choosing to continuously select Raheem Sterling. Even when Southgate made wholesome chances to his squad he still opted for Sterling ahead of Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy…….and as expected Sterling failed to impress and was hauled off at halftime.
MARTINEZ’S TACTICAL RESPONSE
England seized the initiative from the Belgians after the introduction of Lingard and Rashford. Probably, that was due to the weariness of Youri Tielemans whose influence dwindled as the game progressed in the second half. In response, Martinez brought on Moussa Dembele for Tielemans in the 78th minute. The impact was nearly instant as Hazard scored in the 82nd minute and the Belgians wrestled back control of the game.
HELLO!! PHIL JONES IS HERE
In typical Phil Jones fashion, he announced himself by making a mess of an interception which allowed Eden Hazard to run through on goal and score Belgium’s second.
KANE AND LUKAKU OUT OF SORTS
Harry Kane managed only 24 touches during the entire game. He fluffed a decent chance in the first half to draw England level and generally looked tired. As for Lukaku…………..no comment!!
BELGIUM REGISTERS THEIR BEST EVER WORLD CUP FINISH
Belgium sealed third place, an improvement upon their previous best-ever finish of 4th place during the Mexico 1986 World Cup.
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