Belgium Beat England To Claim Third Place In World Cup

Belgium claimed the bronze medal at the World Cup in Russia after beating England 2-0 in the third-place play-off in St Petersburg on Saturday.

Thomas Meunier opened the scoring for Belgium, sliding home a Nacer Chadli cross on four minutes. Eden Hazard sealed the win on 82 in front of 64,406 spectators.

Belgium were bitterly disappointed not to have made the final after an end-to-end semi-final against France but third is their highest finish at a World Cup, their previous best being fourth in 1986.

England, meanwhile, will take some consolation that Harry Kane remains likely to be the World Cup’s top scorer, with Belgian rival Romelu Lukaku failing to make up ground on him. Kane’s only realistic rivals, France’s Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, would need hat-tricks in Sunday’s final to draw level with the Englishman.

It was the first third-place play-off to feature two teams that had met already in the group stage, and it featured much of the strangeness of that dead-rubber Group G clash all those weeks ago in Kaliningrad, with changes made on both sides from the teams that lost their respective semi-finals.

The match had been billed as a shoot-out between Kane and Lukaku, with the Belgian, on four goals, needing to score three without reply to go ahead of Kane.

But it was Belgium’s right-back who opened the scoring, sending records tumbling in the process.

Meunier shinned home to score his country’s fastest-ever World Cup goal, while the Paris Saint-Germain player also became Belgium’s 10th scorer at the World Cup, equalling records set by France (1982) and Italy (2006).

Kane looked to draw first blood in his personal duel with Lukaku on 24 minutes but his sluggish knock-out phase form continued as he dragged wide after an excellent Raheem Sterling lay-off.

England manager Gareth Southgate brought on Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford at half-time for Danny Rose and Raheem Sterling respectively as he tried to inject some life into his team.

And Lingard nearly set up Kane with a cross-cum-shot on 54 minutes, but the Tottenham Hotspur man, lurking on the six-yard line, couldn’t quite get his toe to the ball.

Lukaku then passed up an opportunity, failing to control after being put clear by Kevin De Bruyne, exactly as he had done from a similar De Bruyne pass in the first half. Then it was Kane’s turn to drop a clanger as he completely miscued a volley on 65 minutes.

Eric Dier had England’s best chance of the match on 70 minutes, when he looked set to reprise Belgium legend Philippe Albert’s famous goal against Germany at the 1994 World Cup. A one-two took him clear but his dinked effort was cleared off the line by Spurs team-mate Toby Alderweireld.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, so impressive all tournament, stopped a candidate for goal of the finals on 80 minutes as he stretched to keep out a thumping Meunier volley after a lightning Belgian counter-attack.

But Hazard beat the Everton keeper two minutes later, De Bruyne feeding him in the box to slip home and draw a smile of satisfaction from his manager, Roberto Martinez.

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