Belgium 2 - 0 England
Jordan Pickford signed off from the 2018 World Cup today as Belgium beat England in the third/fourth play-off match in Saint Petersburg.
It was an essentially meaningless distraction but it also served as a farewell to the tournament from an England team that defied limited expectations and united a country behind their national team in a manner not really experienced since Italia '90.
It's the second time the Three Lions and Red Devils have met in the tournament following their group-stage fixture last month. Belgium won that match thanks to a solitary Adnan Januzaj goal, the one for which Everton's Pickford received so much unwarranted flak.
Given that he had been ever-present, there were no guarantees that Pickford would be selected for this one but Gareth Southgate elected to give him another start.
His clean sheet lasted just three minutes, however. Thomas Meunier got behind Danny Rose to slide in on a cross and give Belgium the early lead.
Pickord was forced into a couple of saves, the second to deny Romelu Lukaku when he was put in behind the England defence before Eric Dier had his team's best chance with 21 minutes left.
The Tottenham man evaded his man and clipped the ball over the advancing Thibault Courtois but was denied on the line by a saving clearance by his club-mate, Toby Alderweirald.
England were dominant as the game headed towards the final 10 minutes but they were caught on a quick break by Belgium as Dries Mertens collected Kevin de Bruyne's backheel near the halfway line.
The Napoli man teed up Meunier for a sweet volley but Pickford was equal to it with a smart parry to keep it at 1-0.
The Everton man could do nothing about the second when it came a minute later, though, as Eden Hazard powered past Phil Jones and slotted into the corner to double Belgium's lead. Live Forum
Reader Comments (27)
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1 Posted 14/07/2018 at 14:36:18
That, for example, is why there are no decent creative English midfield players.
The team he's chosen for today's game looks like it's picked to lose – Loftus-Cheek, the carthorse Jones, and Dier, who's even less capable of decent forward passes than the arrogant over-rated water-carrier Henderson.
2 Posted 14/07/2018 at 14:56:43
To play in it means you got so very, very close to the major prize in World Football; but instead you are left on the outside, pressing your nose up against the window of the sweet shop, thinking 'what if..?'
Instead, when your head, your body, your whole being, wants a break from football, you are trotted out to play a totally meaningless game for a global audience.
Judging by the line-ups both camps are (tokeningly) taking it 'seriously', and while I will watch it, it's a game from which you can learn or read very little, I believe.
3 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:00:43
4 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:03:45
Reality is that England have lost 3 games at this tournament because they are very light in creativity and intelligence. I don't even know how if a team has ever lost 3 games before and yet were semi-finalists!!
Belgium will be kicking themselves, however, because they were definitely good enough to have won this.
5 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:09:24
Rashford is a cracking player and very young but, given a chance, I reckon Lookman could put him in the shade.
6 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:19:56
7 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:26:46
8 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:33:17
Today, again, the limitations were there for all to see. De Bruyne and Hazard are way ahead of anything England had and in Hazard you can see what Sterling doesn't have. Pickford did his job better than most in the squad and has proved he is the top English keeper.
9 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:33:33
I am interested to see the differences in playing style in action as shown in the tournament. Players can basically play the ball forwards, across the park or backwards. Some teams, (and players obviously) instinctively, look to play horizontally or backwards even when a forward ball 'is on'.
Also, I'm surprised to see how few play the ball forward into space for the attacker to run onto. I am hoping these basic points of approach to the game are the direction M&M want to follow. Lookman is definitely one of the "play it forward" mentality. I have been impressed with how McGuire is also a "play it forward" sort of guy, moreso than John Stones but without the style.
10 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:39:27
11 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:43:30
12 Posted 14/07/2018 at 17:44:55
13 Posted 14/07/2018 at 18:37:49
14 Posted 14/07/2018 at 18:39:13
The back line seem to be forming a good partnership but tend to relax at times causing panic or a goal. Hopefully they will get better with more experience together. The main problem to me was they don't have a play-maker to take control of a game as do the Belgium, French, Croatia and the South American teams.
Overall, England did better than expected, but they now have to prove that they have improved when the Euros come up. Let's remember that the last 4 in the World Cup are from Europe.
Gareth Southgate has done well since taking charge but now he has made a rod for his back as he will be expected to do better in the future.
15 Posted 14/07/2018 at 20:34:44
Tom, this is not really my recollection of things. Sure the press did their usual leap onto the bandwagon like the utter rats that they are, and there may have been the odd moron braying, but pretty much every fan of England knew the limitations of the team and were just enjoying the run.
16 Posted 14/07/2018 at 22:36:33
17 Posted 14/07/2018 at 22:39:18
Obviously players like Hazard and De Bruyne are a bit ahead of ours, but the Belgian side has progressed a lot over the last four years. Will they be able to win something over the next four?
Personally, I think if we hold our nerve and keep doing the right things, then we will be a lot closer to them, and perhaps even as good as them in four years time.
18 Posted 14/07/2018 at 22:55:30
But I do know that the young England teams have been cleaning up tournaments of late and there are some very talented prospects coming through – including a fair few Evertonians.
A lot has been made of the lack of creativity in the England side and I see a player like Dowell who can be as good as he wants to be and I hope he takes whatever chance comes his way this season.
19 Posted 14/07/2018 at 23:00:51
20 Posted 14/07/2018 at 23:03:06
21 Posted 14/07/2018 at 23:05:55
There are positive things to take. I don't rate Southgate as a coach; when it came to the crunch, he was tactically inept. He is, however, a top class man manager. His PR is excellent and his handling of the media unsurpassed in recent times. He got them on board, played down expectation and quite amazingly no one has questioned him at all. That has been quite a result for him.
Other plusses? Stones is magnificent and will be a truly great player. Same for Pickford. I don't quite buy into the idea that this is a stepping stone.
This was, in my view, the best chance England have had and will have of winning the world cup. The best under performed. It will not happen again. England, had they over-performed, could have been World Champions. To me, it is a bitterly disappointing outcome. This is as good as it will get for Southgate. The press will be on his back soon enough.
22 Posted 15/07/2018 at 01:11:51
That said, if he wants to be genuine top drawer, the concentration piece and reliance on recovery needs to be worked on. The type of momentary switch off that cost them the goal against Croatia. At the very highest level, that will make him more Distin than Kompany. Read the game & watch the man, not the ball because against top, top strikers, you get punished.
23 Posted 15/07/2018 at 06:59:41
We're missing a play maker in midfield. Maybe Wilshere might have been a good squad addition.
Lingard started some excitement when he came on but his completed pass percentage seemed pretty damn awful. No the only one, might I add.
Contrary to some comment above, I feel that Stones played a "cultured" tournament. Prone to the odd mistake but there were more of those from his defence colleagues than him.
Now we're at the final stages – time for Everton to kick-on with some signings and departures!!!
24 Posted 15/07/2018 at 07:11:32
25 Posted 15/07/2018 at 10:00:24
Plus ça change...
26 Posted 16/07/2018 at 11:23:10
We miss his goals but he continues to be on the periphery when it really matters in the big games.
Just doesn't impose himself enough when he's up against decent defenders.
27 Posted 17/07/2018 at 04:11:55
[Spookily concealed?] within the fact that TWO of those losses were the semis themselves, and then the following 3rd/ 4th playoff game, I'm pretty certain there lies your answer!!! And so, having lost just one group game, prior to the semis, then yes I'd imagine that's something which has often happened!!! That quite so hard to figure out???
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