Five things we learned as England lost to Belgium
Much-changed Three Lions beaten
England will play Colombia in the round of 16 after losing to Belgium in their final group game.
Adnan Januzaj scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for the Belgians, who will play Japan after finishing top of Group G.
It was England’s first defeat of the tournament, but it might not be all doom and gloom. Here’s the Coral News Team’s big match wrap…
Southgate is playing the long game
The England boss made eight changes from the side which beat Panama 6-1. There was no Harry Kane, no Raheem Sterling and no Jesse Lingard.
In doing so, he allowed his key players to rest up, while allowing the remainder of his squad to gain crucial World Cup experience and game-time.
Some may suggest Southgate should have kept Kane and co in the squad for momentum, but either way it’s clear the England boss is planning for further down the line.
England weren’t too bothered about losing
Publicly Southgate made it clear that he wanted his side to carry on winning, even though it could be argued that losing and finishing second opened a more favourable route to the final.
The England boss denied such claims, but his decision to bring on Danny Welbeck instead of Harry Kane while trailing Belgium spoke volumes. Southgate and England were ok about losing this one.
After Colombia, England would face Sweden or Switzerland in the quarter-final. France, Argentina, Brazil and Portugal are now all in the other half of the draw.
Kane’s absence enhances his presence
Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford are clinical strikers, but neither carried enough of a presence against Belgium.
In not playing Harry Kane, Southgate only heightened the Tottenham Hotspur man’s importance to England’s hopes in Russia.
We can’t really judge England’s B-team
This was a weird game. There was nothing riding on it and results elsewhere meant there was little in it between finishing first or second.
With that in mind, it’s nigh-on impossible to properly judge the eight players who came in for England.
It really wasn’t a proper World Cup match, much in the way France v Denmark wasn’t.
Few players stood out for England, which may confirm Southgate’s first-choice XI in future matches, but it would be harsh to properly critique the starting eleven against Belgium.
Traders still fancy England’s chances
Despite the defeat, England’s odds to win the World Cup have shortened from 8/1 to 7/1.
And as for Kane, he remains 13/8 favourite to win the Golden Boot.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing