Published: Fri, June 29, 2018
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Defeat to Belgium sets up England's 'biggest game for decade'

Defeat to Belgium sets up England's 'biggest game for decade'

England and Belgium have both already punched their tickets to the knockout round of the 2018 World Cup, but that doesn't mean that their matchup on Thursday will be without outcome.

Germany's exit has no bearing on England preparations for the World Cup latter stages, and they will be going all out to win their final Group G match against Belgium, coach Gareth Southgate said on Wednesday. I can't imagine a situation where I stand in front of the group of players I have got and start talking to them about anything else.

There has been some talk that England might have an easier route at the World Cup if they lose in Kaliningrad. "We've not won a knockout game since 2006", he said.

"It would be risky and a real gamble to play any of the players who have yellow cards because you don't want a player missing in the knock-out stage", he said. I understand that. But only one person makes that decision with all the full facts and managing a tournament in mind: physically, medically, tactically for the benefit of the group.

"Of course we have a responsibility to the supporters, and the support in the stadium was absolutely outstanding tonight".

England and Belgium will take on each other in a clash of the European heavyweights as they battle it out for top spot in their group on Thursday.

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By now we know the eight Round of 16 match-ups, perhaps none more fascinating than France versus Argentina (though Brazil vs. Mexico is in with a shout).

Gary Neville, who was part of the England backroom staff that flopped at Euro 2016, said: 'I didn't think Gareth would make that many changes at all.

"I ask that we go step by step and I see the people in Belgium are very proud of this team, they should be, we have been doing well", he added.

Southgate said he had had no preference about who his team would line up against in the last 16, even after Japan surprised by finishing second in Group H and will now face Belgium while England face Colombia.

"I am trying to develop a winning mentality". Everyone's seen the level that we've been playing at and we've got to keep improving'.

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