Will England Batter Belgium Or Are Belgium a Better Bet?

England fans have been in the unusual position of being able to enjoy the opening two games of a World Cup Finals tournament for the first time in a long time. England last won both their opening matches at a World Cup in 2006, but unconvincingly so and a win here would be the first time since 1982 that England have won all three of their group games at the final.

However, they face a Belgium side that have an identical record as their own, with eight goals scored and two conceded in their two victories. Both teams are well-matched with Romelu Lukaku Belgium’s answer to Harry Kane, and Belgium’s golden generation of Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Kevin de Bruyne providing the ammunition to the Manchester United man.

Although the importance of the game has diminished with both teams qualified already, neither team will want to head into the second round on the back of a defeat, so regardless of the teams picked by the managers, it should still be a cracking encounter.

So will England emerge victorious again, or will it be Belgium that come out on top? Or could the game end in a draw? Let’s preview how the teams have performed so far and their possible line ups before we give you our top tip for the game, with odds provided by bet365.

Group G Results so Far

  • Panama 0-3 Belgium
  • Tunisia 1-2 England
  • Belgium 5-2 Tunisia
  • England 6-1 Panama

Current Group G standings

Pos Team Ply W D L F-A Pts GD Bookings
1 England 2 2 0 0 8-2 6 +6 2
2 Belgium 2 2 0 0 8-2 6 +6 3
3 Tunisia 2 0 0 2 3-7 0 -4 1
4 Panama 2 0 0 2 1-9 0 -8 8

When teams have identical records, the team with the fewest bookings is the deciding factor. In this case, England are top by virtue of having one fewer booking than Belgium. If both teams finish dead level on record and bookings, then the top place in Group G will be decided by the drawing of lots.

World Cup Leading Goalscorer Standings

  • Harry Kane (England) – 5 Goals
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) – 4 Goals
  • Diego Simeone (Spain), Denis Cheryshev (Russia) – 3 Goals
  • Luis Suarez (Uruguay), John Stones (England), Mile Jedinak (Australia), Luka Modric (Croatia), Mo Salah (Egypt), Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), Ahmed Musa (Nigeria), Artem Dzyuba (Russia) & Eden Hazard (Belgium)2 Goals

Other Belgium and England World Cup goalscorers:

  • England – Jesse Lingard – 1 goal
  • Belgium – Dries Mertens, Michy Batshuayi – 1 goal

Belgium Team News

Following confirmation that Belgium had made it into the last sixteen following their 5-2 win over Tunisia, it was interesting in his post-match press conference that Roberto Martinez named two or three key players, amongst them Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, stating that both had slight knocks and are doubts for the England game.

The rest of his press conference also intimated to me and the journalists present that Martinez was not going to risk too many of his top stars for the clash with England, as following England’s win over Panama, both sides had made it into the Round of 16 anyway.

As such, I think you will likely see a number of stars rested by Belgium in this game, though how extensive those changes may be is not clear. The Belgian’s won’t want to lose the game, but I think they are prepared to play a weaker team and rest key men against England, than they are to risk playing them to secure a win and have them tired for the knockout phase.

As such, the potential Belgian team for this game is a bit of a guess, but here’s my guess at the team Martinez will pick to face England on Thursday.

Possible Belgium XI – 3-4-3 – Courtois, Dendoncker , Boyata, Alderweireld, Kompany, Carrasco, Fellaini, Dembele, Tielemans, Batshuayi, Hazard.T

England Team News

After England’s superb 6-1 win over Panama, their largest ever World Cup finals win, Gareth Southgate kind of followed the same line of thinking as Roberto Martinez when asked about the next game for England, with Southgate intimating that while he wanted to win the game and keep building momentum, he also felt the need to rest some players and to give other players in the squad ‘in need of a game’ the chance to play against Belgium.

Again, reading between the lines here, I think that means players who have played all of the previous two games against Panama and Tunisia could be in line for a rest, especially those that have picked up a knock or who are central to Southgate’s plans.

The interesting thing for Southgate will be to see if he elects to rest Harry Kane. The England man must be chomping at the bit to play after his five goals so far, but will Southgate wrap him in cotton wool for the last 16 game, or will Kane be allowed to try and increase his goal tally against the Belgians?

Personally, I feel Kane is too important not to play a part in the game, but I do feel that he will only play if England are losing in the second half. I also feel Dele Alli may be given an extra few days to recover, rather than being risked in a game which is essentially meaningless besides deciding group position.

Like Belgium’s team, it is a bit of a guess which team Southgate will pick but we do know it will likely play in the 3-5-2 formation he has favoured for a while now.  I also feel that the make up of the 23-man squad selected meant that Southgate anticipated England may win both games and as such, he can now rotate all 11 players if needs be for this game.

Possible England XI – 3-5-2 – Butland, Alexander-Arnold, Rose, Dier, Jones, Cahill, Delph, Loftus-Cheek, Sterling, Rashford, Vardy.

Our Top Tips for England v Belgium

  • Match Result – Draw – 11/5 with bet365

With both managers intimating that they are going to make several changes for this game, I think what we will eventually see is a Belgium second choice XI against an England second choice XI. You can’t really blame the managers for that, and they will not be the only managers to have their team qualified for the second phase to rest players for the final game.

That said, I think the loss of regular first teamers does hurt Belgium more than England as I think the players Belgium omit are a much higher quality than those that replace them, where with England, I don’t think the difference between the key players is quite so great. As such, I think this makes it a more even game and with neither side wanting to lose, I think a draw is an absolute nap here, though I would personally love to see England win the game.

  • First Goalscorer – Jamie Vardy – 5/1 with bet365

My second and final tip for the game is the First Goalscorer market and I think Jamie Vardy will be raring to go. The Leicester striker has had a long journey through the football pyramid to reach the World Cup Finals and having scored at Euro 2016, I think he’ll be itching to grab a goal here. Vardy I think will start directly in place of Harry Kane with Rashford alongside him and I think his energy will give the Belgian defence, which is a little slow, real problems. At 5/1, he is a very good bet to grab the opener.