For these two sides the World Cup dream sadly died this week, after both had looked so strong in their opening group games. Both perhaps burnt out too soon, which was perhaps evident in the fact they were second best to France and Croatia respectively.

These two Group G rivals will now meet again to contest one final game in the third-place playoff. The last time they metboth sides fielded weakened teams, with advancement to the knockouts already assured for both.

Belgium just edged that game but this should be a very different contest to the one two weeks ago. It promises to be a forlorn affair, but does promise to be a battle of heart and pride.

The two sides will have the chance to show they won't be defeated by their heartbreaking exits and express the character to come back stronger by claiming third place, so there is still a good deal on the line in a game perceived as a dead rubber.

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Belgium finished with the best record in the group stage, ending with maximum points and a goal difference of plus seven. There was a concern from early on within the camp though that the team may have overexerted themselves too soon.

It showed in their first knockout game as they went 2-0 down to Japan, but in typically dogged style, the Red Devils overturned the deficit to eventually win 3-2. They went on to beat tournament favourites Brazil in a spectacular quarter-final encounter, with Kevin de Bruyne's stunning winner aided by a somewhat fortuitous own goal.

They had no answer for France’s professional and dominant approach in the semi-final though, barring a few flash in the pan chances they never came close to troubling Hugo Lloris as they lost 1-0.


England also breezed through the group stage, despite the deciding group game loss to Belgium. The Three Lions most notable performance came in the huge 6-1 victory over Panama, after an opening game win over Tunisia. 

England then won their first ever World Cup penalty shootout against Colombia in the Last 16, before comfortably sweeping past Sweden in the quarter-finals to set up a crunch clash with Croatia.

Gareth Southgate's men started brightly against Croatia, with Kieran Trippier’s well taken free kick giving them the lead inside the first five minutes. But they once again squandered big chances, something that has plagued them this tournament but up until then had been of no consequence.

England only managed six shots on target throughout the entire knockout stage and scored four of those chances, so it was something that was likely to catch up with them eventually.

They just couldn’t match the pace and intensity set by Croatia as the game drew on, being outrun from half-time onwards. Croatia got the two goals they needed from an impressive performance, ending the Three Lions hopes of silverware in the process. 

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Previous Encounters

The two sides met just two weeks ago with both managers fielding heavily rotated sides for a dead rubber clash. It proved to be a pretty dull affair with neither set of supporting casts really staking a claim to be promoted to the first team.

Former Manchester United and Sunderland winger Adnan Januzaj split the two sides with his second half effort in an otherwise uninspiring game. It was a game perhaps best remembered for misfiring Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi smashing the ball into his own face off the woodwork as he went to celebrate Januzaj's goal.

It was only the third time in history that the Red Devils have emerged victorious in this fixture so England still have the history books on their side, winning 15 of the other 22 encounters.  

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Kieran Trippier is likely to miss this game after limping off in extra time against Croatia, which will be a blow to Gareth Southgate given his performances in the tournament.

Both sides could make odd tweaks or there, but are expected to predominantly play their best possible lineups barring any late fitness concerns.

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Predicted Line-Ups

Belgium (4-3-3): Courtois, Vertonghen, Kompany, Alderwiereld, Chadli, Witsel, Fellaini, de Bruyne, Mertens, Lukaku, Hazard

England (3-5-2): Butland, Alexander-Arnold, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Rose, Henderson, Lingard, Loftus-Cheek, Kane, Rashford

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Third place is a mediocre prize in comparison to lifting the World Cup, but it would still represent England's best finish since 1966. This game will hopefully be set to a joyous backdrop with both sets of fans celebrating their nations achievement, rather than dwelling on what could have been.

England still haven’t beaten a seeded team at this tournament and that’s a record that still stretches back to 2002 - for that reason they will be keen to end the tournament on a high.

The lack of real consequence should provide a freedom to the game that the players have not experienced yet this tournament. Both teams should really go at it and produce a spectacular encounter to soften the blow of bowing out, whilst making their fans proud for one last time this summer.


Let's hope for goals galore and a wonderful send off from the tournament for both of these teams.

Prediction: Belgium 2-3 England