Belgium and England will face off in their final game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Krestovsky Stadium on Saturday, with third place on the line

Russia 2018 has been one of the most exciting editions of the FIFA World Cup. Just two games remain in the month-long tournament, which will end this weekend. On Saturday, the consolation prize of a third-place finish will be on the line as Belgium and England lock horns at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.

Belgium have been one of the strongest sides at FIFA World Cup 2018. The Golden Generation seemed to be finally coming through with some impressive performances, most notably the wins over Japan and Brazil. But, the Red Devils’ run came to a grinding halt against France, who beat them 1-0 in the semi-finals earlier this week.

England, on the other hand, have enjoyed a fantastic World Cup campaign. But, unfortunately for the Three Lions, it won’t be coming home in 2018 after they surrendered a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 to Croatia in their semi-final tie on Wednesday. Nevertheless, Gareth Southgate & co. can hold their head up high after a job well done in an incredible FIFA World Cup 2018 campaign.

The two sides have already faced each other once, in their final group stage game, with Belgium edging out England 1-0 in a closely contested affair. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the third-place playoff.

Team News & Tactics

Belgium

Belgium's impressive FIFA World Cup 2018 campaign ended in heartbreak. (Photo courtesy - Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Belgium’s impressive FIFA World Cup 2018 campaign ended in heartbreak. (Photo courtesy – Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Roberto Martinez has no roster issues whatsoever ahead of Belgium’s final World Cup game in Russia. Thomas Meunier served his one-match suspension against France, and his absence was seen as one of the major reasons why the Red Devils lost to Les Bleus earlier this week.

Third-place playoffs have historically seen managers introduce a few fringe players while also retaining a major chunk of their regulars, and Martinez shouldn’t be any different. While Meunier should return as the right wing-back, the likes of Vincent Kompany, Axel Witsel and Romelu Lukaku could be rested.

In their stead, Dedryck Boyata, Youri Tielemans and Michy Batshuayi are likely to get rare starts, while Adnan Januzaj, who scored the only goal in the group stage tie, should also get a look-in. Lukaku though, should be an option off the bench, with the striker still in with a minor chance to win the Golden Boot.

The match could serve as a chance for Martinez to identify some of his long-term options, with Kompany among those who are approaching the end of their international careers.

Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen; Meunier, De Bruyne, Tielemans, Carrasco; Januzaj, Thorgan Hazard; Batshuayi

Belgium

England

Like Martinez, Gareth Southgate could also ring in a few changes while retaining a number of his core players at the same time. The England boss though, will be forced into one change, with Kieran Trippier unlikely to be risked after hobbling off towards the end of the semi-final against Croatia.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is likely to be the man to replace Trippier in the right wing-back slot. There should be a change on the opposite flank as well, with Danny Rose replacing Ashley Young, who has enjoyed a solid World Cup campaign thus far.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also likely to get a look-in, with Eric Dier coming in to give Jordan Henderson some much needed rest. Harry Kane though, like Lukaku, will likely be an option off the bench, although he has strong chances of winning the Golden Boot even if he doesn’t feature.

Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford should be among the young players getting a chance as well, replacing the England captain in the starting lineup. Raheem Sterling should give him company upfront. In goal, Jordan Pickford is likely to be afforded a breather, with Jack Butland coming in for England’s final game.

Probable Starting Lineup (3-5-2): Butland; Jones, Stones, Maguire; Alexander-Arnold, Alli, Dier, Loftus-Cheek, Rose; Rashford, Sterling

Key Stats

  • This is the fourth meeting between Belgium and England at the FIFA World Cup. Both sides have won one game each, with their first ever World Cup meeting in 1954 ending in a 4-4 draw.
  • Before losing 1-0 to Belgium at this year’s World Cup, England had lost just one of their previous 21 meetings with the Red Devils (W15 D5).
  • Belgium and England are the first teams to face each other for the second time at a World Cup tournament since Turkey played Brazil twice at the 2002 World Cup.
  • England and Belgium have each featured in a third-place playoff at the FIFA World Cup on one previous occasion, with both ending up on the losing side. While England lost to Italy in 1990, Belgium were beaten by their conquerors in the semi-finals, France in 1986.
  • England’s tally of 12 goals at Russia 2018 is their highest ever at a World Cup tournament, eclipsing even their return in the 1966 edition, when they had gone on to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Player to Watch

Trent Alexander-Arnold

A big chance beckons. (Photo courtesy - Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

A big chance beckons. (Photo courtesy – Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

It will be a game that will provide several players with a chance to gain some vital game time at a World Cup. It goes without saying that these fringe players will be eager to make a mark in a rare start. But, one player will be relishing the opportunity more than anyone else.

After enjoying a stellar 2017-18 campaign with Liverpool, there is understandably a lot of hype and excitement surrounding the teenager. But, he has had to watch most of the World Cup campaign from the bench, with Kieran Trippier one of the most consistent performers for England thus far.

On Saturday though, Alexander-Arnold is likely to get his second World Cup start. A similar outing as the one in England’s previous tie against Belgium should help him cement his place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for a long time.

Prediction

Belgium 2-1 England

This is a match that nobody wishes to play. With the chance to win the World Cup gone, a third place finish is nothing but a consolation for the losing semi-finalists. Sure, there will be pride at stake for Belgium and England. But, the match is likely to have more of a friendly vibe to it.

Nevertheless, with several fringe players from both sides looking to make an impact, the match is unlikely to be short on action. Like the group stage meeting between the two sides though, Belgium should have just enough to outclass England, with Harry Kane’s likely Golden Boot win a consolation prize for the Three Lions.

Belgium do not have a lot of happy memories to take from the Krestovsky Stadium, having been beaten by France at the same venue earlier this week. But, the Red Devils will have something to take back from Saint Petersburg, with a historic third-place finish a decent reward for their performances at FIFA World Cup 2018.