Moscow (June 29, 2018): Adnan Januzaj curled in a left-footed shot in the second half to give a second-string Belgium a 1-0 victory over a second-string England on Thursday.
The win continued Belgium’s strong start to the World Cup — it joined Croatia and Uruguay as the only teams to win at three games in the group stage — but it set the Red Devils on a potentially far more difficult path in the knockouts.Belgium won the game despite making nine changes to its lineup, and amid a discussion about whether it might be better to finish second in the group instead of winning it.
With its victory, Belgium won its third game at the World Cup but advanced to what most consider the tougher side of the knockout-round bracket, one that includes Brazil, Mexico, France, Argentina, Uruguay and Portugal.
England, which made eight changes to its starting lineup in an effort to rest its stars, probably will see value in landing where it did. Its side of the knockout round includes Sweden and Croatia, but it would not see either of them until the semifinals — if the English advance that far.The England-Colombia winner would play the victory of Sweden-Switzerland in the quarterfinals.
“We want to win every game and we’re disappointed we couldn’t do that today,” England midfielder Eric Dier said. “I thought it was quite an even game. We created some good chances. We needed to finish one of them, that was all that was missing really.”Januzaj’s goal was a moment of individual excellence in a match that didn’t show much of it. Collecting a ball on Belgium’s right wing, he cut inside Danny Rose to get the ball on his left foot and curled it high and around a diving goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.Belgium Coach Roberto Martinez got some gritty work in the midfield from Marouane Fellaini, Moussa Dembele and Nacer Chadli. But Belgium’s best face is an attacking one, and when Martinez gets Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku back, he and his team will be looking to make a deep run, despite the heavyweights on its side of the bracket.
“You cannot plan the ideal scenario; you’ve seen big nations already eliminated,” Martinez said. “We need to look at ourselves.”