The match nobody wants to play in

Belgium v England - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ - Play-off for third place

except one team did on the day.

England ended their World Cup campaign with another limp performance against a better team, one that wanted to finish third as they lost 2-0 to Belgium.

The Belgium players made it quite clear beforehand they wanted third place, their manager reinforced this with his starting XI, while Southgate showed it didn’t really matter to him.

I mean if you were really going for it you wouldn’t put up Jones against Hazard, you wouldn’t start Sterling either, but then you wouldn’t start him or Young in the previous games if you really wanted to win.

Saying that Rose blew his chance once again. A shot player, a couple of time he came on and went forward, Young was so bad that anything looked better, but yet again Rose was found out in defence. Behind Meunier when the Belgian opened the scoring four minutes in. Someone said it was a classic piece of Spurs’ fullback defending. Yup, don’t know how many times I’ve seen Walker or Rose caught like that.

This game was the complete reversal of England’s previous outings. A slow ponderous, clueless, inept opening half. Followed by a more upbeat second half. It goes to show what removing Sterling can do to a team, they even managed to overcome Southgate’s half-time talk, just by removing one player. Rose was also discarded at the break. Imagine if Southgate had taken Sessegnon.

Harry Kane is getting the blame for both this loss and the semi-final, by people that don’t seem to understand that if you don’t give a striker the ball in positions he can strike at goal, he ain’t gonna score many goals. He finally got a pass from Sterling but was so shocked and stunned he made a right pig’s ear of it.

Yes Kane looked tired but then he’s actually run further than most, for all the talk of Sterling’s running, while taking a large number of kicks to win free-kicks when he knew nothing else was on and that was his only option.

The other changes saw Loftus-Cheek brought in and again he showed why he doesn’t get any game time at Chelsea, looking more like a Palace player. Too big, cumbersome and about a deft as Lukaku was on the day. There’s no real guile, he looks like a real product of English youth team coaching, while the likes of Messi and Modric would be overlooked because they’re “too small”, this lumbering bull in the china shop has them drooling.

As said, a touch to match Lukaku, who was getting great service and butchering every opportunity gifted to him by excellent passes and inept defending, with a laughable first touch. Imagine if Harry had been on the end of some of those balls, there would be no sweating on Lukaku, Mbappe or Griezmann nicking the Golden Boot off him.

And England would be heading home on the end of a right thrashing. You wonder what sort of thrashing could have been waiting for them had they got past Croatia to get to the final. While if Belgium hadn’t won that last group game, you’d bet they’d have got past Croatia in the semi.

With Jones doing his gormless buffoon impression, see recent FA Cup final, Belgium got a second while England were on top. And it wasn’t just down to having Hazard and de Bruyne as the TV pundits will tell you, repeatedly, but the fact that when they got the ball the moved down the pitch quickly. They didn’t stop to fanny about, to me, to you passing between the centre-backs and keeper. No, when they got the ball before you knew it they were in England’s half. The Belgium wingbacks weren’t permanently facing their own goal and passing back.

England could play like that, they should play like that because they’re not up to playing as Southgate wants them to against half decent opposition. Inviting trouble and panicked back-passes that eventually just lead to the keeper humping the ball up the pitch anyway.

Speed, one touch, triangles and movement – see the video for that shot from Meunier, excellently saved by Pickford, that’s the way to play. Everything that’s missing from Southgate’s plan on how they should play. And they ain’t gonna change, are they? It’s his plan and his not diverting from it, much like he never really diverted from putting out a starting XI that didn’t work as a team.

So fourth place is seen as real success, because of how far England plummeted under Hodsgon, hell after being win less in ’14 and only beating Wales and losing to Iceland, anything is an improvement but a word of warning the last time they finished in this spot they didn’t qualify for the next World Cup, after having a shambles of a Euros. While over a third of those playing out the 3rd/4th place match haven’t reached the following World Cup since 1986, France beat Belgium that year, France didn’t reach Italia ’90…

Oh, and another loss, yet again, “live and exclusive on ITV”…

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