Belgium outclass England in third-place play-off to clinch best-ever World Cup finish

Published on – July 14, 2018 – 10:40 pm

Goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard were enough for Belgium to beat a slow-going England and clinch third place in the World Cup.

Goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard were enough for Belgium to beat a slow-going England and clinch third place in the World Cup.

Belgium took the lead early after poor defending from Gareth Southgate’s side allowed right wing-back Meunier to steal in at the back post and convert from close range. England had the majority of possession but were slow on the ball, lacked movement or ideas and Belgium sat deep waiting to pick them off on the counter-attack.

A late period of sustained pressure by England was their best of the game but Belgium took advantage and showed their class, using the space and the ball well to play Hazard in. His finish into the near post guaranteed the win – a deserved one at that.

“We had to play flat out and we’ve had a day less to recover, it was a game too far for us. They are a top team, they’ll be thinking they should have gone further than they did. They have players of the highest quality.

“We are competitive in every game, to finish in the top four is probably above where we are currently. Huge credit to the players.

“I think two years on the number of caps the Belgian players have, they’re at their peak. We’re nowhere near our peak.

“We’ve tried to maximise the players we have and their profiles. It’s not club football, we can’t go and buy players. I can’t ask for more from them.”

Opta stats

  • Belgium have registered their best finish at a World Cup tournament, finishing third and beating their previous best finish of fourth in 1986.
  • England have lost three of their last five matches (W1 D1) – their previous three defeats came over a period of 28 matches.
  • The Three Lions lost back to back matches for the first time since June 2014, when they were beaten by Italy and Uruguay at the 2014 World Cup.
  • This was England’s 100th match at a major tournament (69 at the World Cup, 31 at the European Championships). They have won 39, drawn 32 and lost 29 of those matches.
  • Since 1966, no player has been involved in more World Cup goals for Belgium than Eden Hazard (7, 3 goals and 4 assists), level with Jan Ceulemans (4 goals, 3 assists).
  • England lost three matches at a major tournament for only the second time, also losing three times at Euro 1988.
  • Thomas Meunier was the 10th different player to score for Belgium at the 2018 World Cup – the joint-most scorers by a team at a World Cup tournament (also 10 for France in 1982 and Italy in 2006).
  • Harry Kane ended the 2018 World Cup with six goals from six shots on target – however, he had just one shot on target in his final four World Cup matches, doing so from the penalty spot against Colombia.
  • This was only the third time that England have lost two matches in a calendar year against the same opponent, also losing twice against Wales in 1936 and twice against Italy in 1973.
  • England had as many shots on target in this match as they managed in their previous three knockout matches combined (6).