We look at the two key battles that could have a major bearing on the outcome of the game when England and Belgium clash in the third-place playoffs of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
After enduring heartbreaks in their respective semifinal battles earlier this week, Belgium and England will clash for the second time in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, on Saturday in St. Petersburg, with the third-place finish at stake.
Belgium had been one of the stronger teams in the 21st edition of the World Cup, but their dreams of making it to the finals of the tournament were brought to an end by France, who beat them 1-0 in the semifinal. On the other hand, England performed well above the initial expectations in Russia, but just when the fans believed that it was coming home, they were defeated 2-1 by Croatia, putting an end to their trophy quest.
With both the teams playing to salvage some pride and finish third in the competition on Saturday, here we take a look at two key battles that could shape the outcome of the game;
Harry Kane vs Toby Alderweireld
The England captain started off the World Cup in ominous form, scoring five goals in his first two games against Tunisia and Panama. But, he hasn’t been able to carry that form into the knockout stages and that has seemingly had an effect on the Three Lions’ performances.
Yet, leading the goalscoring charts with six strikes to his name, Kane is well-placed to win the coveted Golden Boot and will be hoping to ensure that he doesn’t leave Russia empty-handed, with a goal or two in the last match.
However, he will be up against a very familiar face in Toby Alderweireld, who will be trying everything in his power to make sure that the England captain doesn’t have any kind of impact on the proceedings. The Tottenham Hotspur defender has been a key part of this Belgium side and had a great game in the quarterfinal tie against Brazil.
Having been teammates for Spurs for a number of years now, both Kane and Alderweireld will know each other’s games in and out. And who comes out on top in the battle of familiarities could have a major bearing on the result this weekend.
Harry Maguire vs Romelu Lukaku
One of the biggest positives for England from this edition of the World Cup has been the emergence of Harry Maguire as a star in the making. The Leicester City defender has had a brilliant debut in a major international tournament and has easily been one of Three Lions’ best players in Russia over the course of the past month.
Bullying strikers with his strength and physicality, posing a threat in the opposition box in set-piece situations, striding out from the back confidently with the ball at his feet, the 25-year old has impressed in all facets of his game.
However, in Romelu Lukaku, he will be encountering one of his toughest tests till date in Russia. The Manchester United superstar had been integral to Belgium’s success, but failed to shine in the semifinal, which ended up costing his side a chance to make history.
With four goals so far in the tournament, Lukaku’s chances of beating Kane to the Golden Boot are very slim. But should he come into his elements, England would find it hard to keep a lid on the danger that he will pose. The fact that Maguire can go toe to toe with the Belgian in terms of pace, power and strength makes the contest between the two an enticing prospect for the fans.