Monday, 17 December, 2018

England's game v Colombia 'biggest knockout game for decade'

Romelu Lukaku is flying high in the Power Rankings Romelu Lukaku is flying high in the Power Rankings
Rita Gibson | 29 June, 2018, 11:39

It remains to be seen who England will play in the knockout stages, where the result against Belgium will determine who they play from either Japan or Colombia.

Theresa May is back in Brussels today for a summit of European Union leaders, just hours ahead of a clash between England and Belgium on the football pitch.

The final game of the group stage sees England take on Belgium.

England manager Gareth Southgate pointed to Germany's shock World Cup elimination as a warning that every nation is vulnerable at Russian Federation 2018.

England is now leading the group, but only on the "fair play" tiebreaker, meaning Belgium could still win the group even if the match ends in a draw. We have also learned things tactically that might be important for us. He was in Russian Federation last summer, he pointed out, to see Joachim Löw's team win the Confederations Cup and, two days before that victory, he had flown to Poland to watch Germany beat Spain in the final of the European Under-21 Championship. If either team wins this match, they win the group and enter the group stage with momentum.

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"Making predictions in the World Cup can be a little bit hard", Martinez said, insisting Belgium would concentrate on Monday's meeting with Japan in Rostov-on-Don.

England last won a match in the last 16 of the finals when they completed a 1-0 victory over Ecuador in 2006 before losing on penalties to Portugal after a 0-0 draw.

We will therefore rely on Lukaku, signed for £75 million last summer, to build on his 27-goal debut season and fire us into title contention. That side includes four of the top seven teams in the world rankings and no team ranked lower than 15th.

Belgium was my pick to win the World Cup before this tournament, and I honestly feel stronger about that pick after watching them play the first three matches. That gives the BBC a 57 per cent win ratio.

Japan and Senegal will advance with draws against Poland and Colombia respectively. England, in Southgate's mind, would be making a unsafe mistake if they started thinking too far ahead of themselves.

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