Belgium vs England Preview: Familiar faces bow out in third place play-off

Gareth Southgate's England and Roberto Martinez' Belgium face each other in this World Cup once again with both teams suffering semi-final defeats in this 3rd place play-off.

Belgium vs England Preview: Familiar faces bow out in third place play-off
(Getty Images - Juan Mabromata)

Once again, Belgium and England will lock horns in this summers World Cup, sadly for both teams, it wasn't to be in the final as both had originally hoped a fortnight ago.

The Red Devils were beaten by France 1-0 in the semi-finals on Tuesday night, while England suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Croatia after extra-time the following night.

Both sides will be heading into the fixture jaded and dejected but there is still something to play for the two teams. 

A win for Roberto Martinez and his troops will secure Belgium's best ever finish in a World Cup tournament, surpassing the achievement of 1986 when they also reached the semi-final but were defeated 4-2 (AET) by France in the third-place play-off.

Victory for the Three Lions would also mark a historic achievement for Gareth Southgate and his squad, as an England win would see their highest finish in a World Cup since 1966 where they, of course, won the competition. 

Not the final but still something to play for

England and Belgium will be the first encounter this competition that will see two of the same opponents come against each other once again.

The reverse fixture in Group G saw both teams line-up after making several changes to their starting eleven in a match that was considered 'England reserves vs. Belgium reserves'. 

The game was settled by a superb goal from Adnan Januzaj the Red Devils top Group G after winning all their group matches. 

Despite the most recent defeat England boast an impressive record against Belgium - winning 15 of their last 21 encounters.

2018 will stand as remarkable improvement for both sides

Ideally, another Belgium vs England World Cup match would have seen both sides come to blows once again in the final. Both outfits suffered cruel exits with the two just lacking the experience to take them all the way. 

However, this summers tournament will stand as a benchmark for improvement for both sides. 

Only two years ago the Three Lions suffered arguably the most embarrassing night in its football history as England were eliminated from Euro 2016 after being defeated 2-1 by Iceland - a country with a population of just over 300,000. 

Similarly, the Red Devils exited the competition with a sense of underachievement as they were beaten in the quarter-finals 3-1 by Wales despite being superior favourites going into the fixture.  

Two years on and England reached their first World Cup semi-final since 1990 whilst also winning their first penalty shoot-out in the competition - the fourth time of asking.

Belgium not only made the last-four for the second time in their history but also came back from 2-0 down against a resilient Japan side to win 3-2. Also, the Red Devils would knock out the competition favourites after defeating Brazil 2-1 in the quarter-finals. 

Neither side will be returning home with the trophy although both will be welcomed with a sense that they did their respected nations proudly. 

Team News 

Martinez may be drawn into a difficult decision to once again rotate his squad or stick with a first-choice XI. However, a positive for the Spanish-born is that Thomas Meunier is available again after missing the semi-final loss to France.

Both Nacer Chadli and Mousa Dembele failed to impress in the semi-finals after Martinez gambled on the Premier League duo which could lead to one if not both of the Belgian midfielders being dropped for this fixture.

Southgate could also shuffle his team. Jamie Vardy showed energy against Croatia and arguably deserves more minutes, Gary Cahill could get a much-needed game and come in for Kyle Walker while Ruben Loftus-Cheek has definitely made a case to start this final fixture.

Kieran Trippier was nursing a groin injury in the closing stages against Croatia, so may well not be risked considering the impressive Trent Alexander Arnold lies in wake on the substitute's bench.

Predicted Line-ups

England XI: Butland; Jones, Cahill, Maguire; Alexander-Arnold, Dier, Loftus-Cheek, Rose; Alli, Lingard; Vardy.

Belgium XI: Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Boyata, Meunier, Fellaini, Witsel, Chadli, De Bruyne, Batshuayi, T.Hazard