|(Image from The Telegraph)
Both sides involved will be gutted not to have reached the final, would have been the first one since ’66 for England and first time ever for the Belgians. And now with third place in this tournament up for grabs, the hunger to come out on top will be immense in both camps. Looks like it’ll be a good game of football for the teams who were once in the same starting group.
England, what a tournament it’s been. Nobody gave them any chance and expectations were more than exceeded by reaching the semi final and coming within touching distance of the final. Now this game will be a good opportunity to rotate the squad and put in a performance against a spectacular Belgium side, hopefully getting a result to avenge the loss in the group stage.
For the golden generation of Belgium, they’ve had a quite exquisite run. They’ve ground out wins left right and centre, playing some sublime football and only narrowly missing out to their European neighbours in the semis. Maybe they’ve spurned their best chance at lifting the iconic World Cup trophy ever but it’s all to play for for the pride of finishing third.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois.
He’s been absolutely outstanding, world class. Could bring on Mignolet for some rotation but I’m sticking with the big man.
Defenders: Jordan Lukaku (LB), Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany (CBs), Dedryck Boyata (RB).
Vertonghen and Alderweireld deserve a rest and it’ll be a fantastic time to showcase the strengths of Kompany and Vermaelen as experienced, quality centre backs. Jordan Lukaku seems a promising quick starlet, I’ll give him a try at left back and Boyata is decent on the other side.
Midfielders: Youri Tielemans and Mousa Dembelé (CMs), Eden Hazard (LM), Adnan Januzaj (CAM), Thorgan Hazard (RM).
Tielemans and Dembelé look like they know the drill in central midfield. Januzaj scored a screamer last time round playing at CAM against England, so this’ll be yet another opportunity. The Hazard brothers on the flanks will be nice to watch.
Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (ST).
On four goals already, with only Harry Kane ahead of him in the Golden Boot race, you’ve got to start Lukaku in the hope of scoring goals.
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford.
At 24 years old, playing his first major international tournament and being a machine between the posts, he has been incredible to get his nation this far in the competition. Let’s give him something to sign off with.
Defenders: Danny Rose (LWB), Gary Cahill, John Stones and Harry Maguire (CBs), Kyle Walker (RWB).
I’m going with Rose on the left flank, Young has been in decent nick and it’s time for a well earned rest, as Rose played well coming on against Croatia. Trippier looks to have suffered a nasty thigh injury late in the semi final, so Walker will revert to his natural right (wing) back role like he was used to before. Cahill is an experienced and class defender, he’ll be in the centre with Stones and Maguire beside him, being a leader in defence.
Midfielders: Fabian Delph and Eric Dier (CM), Jesse Lingard (CAM).
Delph should be full of confidence and as will Dier as they’ve both been pretty good throughout the competition. Lingard has been resilient in his effort to look forward too.
Forwards: Danny Welbeck (RS), Harry Kane (LS).
Danny Welbeck looked very sharp coming on in the final group stage game, and we all know he can score and perform on an international platform. Kane’s inclusion is a no brainer, captain and leading goalscorer, lead them out for one last time skipper!
Belgium 2-1 England. This is a very hard one for me, choosing between my heart and my head. I know the sheer class and strength that Belgium possess could easily mean it’ll be a 2-0 or 2-1 victory for the Red Devils, but there’s some part of me that says that England can and will come out to play, with a fighting spirit. So I’m saying Belgium will claim third spot, as it’ll be a big boost to them having got the furthest they’ve ever got in a World Cup, but I really, really hope England can prove me wrong!