FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Belgium vs England, 2-0

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Belgium vs England, 2-0

by Sajeesh Soman / 7 months ago

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Belgium vs England, 2-0


Belgium beat England 2-0 in the third/fourth playoff to achieve their highest ever finish to a World Cup after clinching the bronze medal. Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard struck apiece in either halves as a subdued Three Lions were condemned to fourth.


An inconsequential game that unsurprisingly turned out to be no great shakes. But there’s still a few things to ponder over. Here are the major takeaways:


#1 England never really made an effort


While it’s well known how teams dread this particular fixture, England epitomised the theory with a lacklustre display and never really threatening to get something out of this. The lethargy was visible from the opening exchanges, and Belgium made the most of it to draw the first blood as early as the 4th minute when Chadli caught the Three Lions napping and squared off for Meunier to tap home the opener.


England’s chronic reliance on set-pieces throughout the campaign saw them produce little of note from the open play, but today it hit a nadir. Minimal creativity led to chances coming at a premium. They did get forward on a few occasions, but in most cases, were let down by poor final ball. Even in their best spell of the game, which came slightly after the hour mark, saw Dier’s delicate chip cleared off the line by his Tottenham teammate Alderweireld.


England did improve after the break, but the bar couldn’t have been any lower. Overall, they seemed lackadaisical, as if uninterested or still weighed down by the semi-final loss to Croatia that ended their World Cup dream. Whatever the reason is, England were never really in the game here.


#2 Belgium’s counter-attacking brand at full pelt again


With England trying to get forward with whatever will they could muster after the interval, the Belgians were happy to sit back and hit on the break. And boy did it rattle England big time. Led by the electrifying pace of De Bruyne and Hazard, Belgium drove forward in numbers with Chadli actively involved in the move too from the flanks.


England desperately tried to get back in their positions but were comfortably beaten. Thankfully for Pickford’s best efforts and some of Belgium’s own mishits – Lukaku in particular making heavy touches on two occasions that ended two promising counter attacks in a damp squib – the scoreline remained slender. But De Bruyne once again found the English defense napping late in the game when he released Hazard, completely unmarked on the left, who stormed forward and rounded off the move with a sumptuous finish and also consolidate Belgium’s victory.


Belgium have been one of the best counter-attacking sides in the competition, and this goal was another testament to the theory.


#3 Eden Hazard signing off in style


In his third major international tournament with Belgium, Eden Hazard has finally looked to be at home. He’s channeled his inner talisman of Chelsea to shine bright for the Red Devils in the World Cup and put in another top drawer performance to sign off in style.


Hazard ran the rings around the English defense with his mazy dribbles as he completed 7 – more than the double of the next best and got the ball forward in really good positions. He also laid three key passes on the night, but reserved his best bit of the evening for the last when he capped off another clinical counter-attack from Belgium by nonchalantly slamming it past Pickford to put the tie to bed.


That was his third goal of the World Cup and the last piece of action too, but with another prolific game, laid a strong claim to the Golden Ball prize.


#4 Belgium hold fort with aplomb when England came testing


Well, the ‘testing’ here is stated in a very diluted sense. But whenever England did really do that, Belgium held on its own to keep them at arm’s length and preserve the clean sheet. Midway through the first-half Raheem Sterling picked out a pass from Eric Dier inside the area before laying for Harry Kane. But Toby Alderweireld soon sniffed danger and forced his Tottenham teammate to make a desperate contact that saw him blast his effort wide off the post.


England looked improved after the break, but still lacked the creative juices in the tank to sparkle in the attack. Eric Dier came really close in the second stanza when he stole clear of the Belgium defense and lobbed over Courtois, but his effort was cleared off the line. Not even set-pieces could come to their rescue today, as the towering shotstopper had England’s task cut out by comfortably plucking it out of the air.


They weren’t really dangerous, but Belgium made sure their chances are nipped in the bud with solid defending, especially towards the end. And deservedly kept a clean sheet.


#5 Kane may win the Golden Boot, but his form has clearly dwindled


Harry Kane made the best possible start to the World Cup campaign when he struck 5 times in the opening two games before adding another one to the tally in the last 16 against Colombia. That was the last time he was seen on the scoresheet as Kane has grown increasingly anonymous in the following games. He was reported to have picked up a knock against Croatia in the semis which might explain his slow movements and limited activity in the game.


But if that was the case, then he hasn’t recuperated to full strength as he cut another forlorn figure in the attack. His passes were laboured while shots, agonizingly wayward. He made only two attempts in the entire game, and both were painfully wide. Kane has now drawn a blank in the each of the last three games after scoring in each of the previous three. Yet, he somehow finds himself at the top of the pile.


His 6 strikes appear to be untested and is certain to lift the Golden Boot after the conclusion of the Sunday’s final. However, it’s hard to overlook the fact that he lost his footing as the tournament has progressed and is on course to become the most effortless winner of the prize in the recent memory.


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