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Second-string Belgium beat England to top Group G

England 0
Belgium 1 (Januzaj 51′)

By Ben James

A second-string Belgium side defeated a reserve England team 1-0 to win Group G in their top of the table clash in Kaliningrad.

Adnan Januzaj’s winner helped Belgium to only its second win over England in 22 attempts to set up a round-of-16 clash with Japan.

England will face Colombia in the first knockout round after a defeat which ended its year-long unbeaten run

With both teams guaranteed a place in the knockout stage before the match, first-team members were rested, as England made eight changes from their last match and Belgium made nine.

There was plenty of commentary before the match that this was a game both sides would prefer not to win, with the group runners-up facing an easier path to the final on paper.

The lack of game time was evident as both sides started slowly, with the first good chance coming in the 10th minute when Michy Batshuayi’s scrambled touch in the box had to be cleared by Gary Cahill as it dribbled towards an open goal.

England’s best chance of the half came from a corner when Cahill found himself in space at the far post only for his header to go wide.

Both sides found chances hard to come by as they struggled to find their rhythm and were booed off at half time with the score locked 0-0 in a dull affair.

Adnan Januzaj broke the deadlock in the 50th minute with his first international goal when Youri Tielemans found him in the box and his ball-roll created space before bending it into the top left corner of the net.

The goal injected some much-needed intensity into the game and Marcus Rashford had England’s best chance of the match when one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois but his shot was saved.

After the game, England manager Gareth Southgate said that the team had prioritised the upcoming knockout match.

“This was a game that we wanted to win but the knockout game is the biggest in a decade for us, so we’ve got to make sure that our key players were preserved.”

Team Line-ups

England (3-5-2): 1 Pickford; 15 Cahill, 5 Stones, 16 Jones (46′); 3 Rose, 17 Delph, 4 Dier, 21 Loftus-Cheek, 22 Alexander-Arnold (79); 19 Rashford, 11 Vardy
Substitutes Used: 6 Maguire (46′), 14 Welbeck (79′)

Belgium (3-4-3): 1 Courtois; 3 Vermaelen (74′), 20 Boyata, 23 Dendoncker; 16 T. Hazard, 19 Dembele, 17 Tielemans, 22 Chadli: 8 Fellaini 21 Batshuayi (59′) 18 Januzaj (86′)
Substitutes Used: 14 Kompany (74′), 14 Mertens (86′)

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