England’s Russian adventure finishes with a chance to secure their second-best finish in a World Cup with a win over Belgium in the third-place play-off.
The teams meet for the second time at these finals, having also met at the group stage – Belgium won 1-0 with a stunning strike from Adnan Januzaj.
They both progressed to the semi-finals before their tournaments came crashing down. They now must regain composure and focus while not ruing that missed shot at playing in the biggest game in world football.
Despite the potential non-competitive edge to the match, England boss Gareth Southgate is wanting to end the tournament on a high.
He said: “Emotionally it has been a difficult few days but the players are incredible. They are a pleasure to work with. They have an energy and desire.
“We want to finish the tournament well. We have set a standard of how we work and how we play.
“We have high motivation to perform. We have a chance to win a medal at a World Cup, which only one other English team has ever done.
“There is a lot of motivation for us and Belgium have already beaten us, so we would like to address that as well.”
Ahead of the third-place play-off match in St Petersburg, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez is confident his side are ready to play at their optimum despite their disappointing semi-final defeat to France.
He said: “Once the dust settles, it’s very much an important fixture. You always want to push the achievements of a football nation.
“And they want to be the best Belgian team ever and are ready to perform.”
Southgate is not intending to make wholesale changes for the game but will assess the players’ fitness levels before choosing his side.
He said: “Everyone wants to play but sometimes it is not a good decision to play someone if their energy is not there.
“It won’t be the same XI but we want to make as few changes as possible.”
Kieran Trippier is a major doubt after tweaking a nerve in his groin against Croatia while Jordan Henderson, Kyle Walker and Ashley Young may be given a rest.
Martinez may choose to rest striker Romelu Lukaku despite being within two goals of Harry Kane in the chase for the Golden Boot.
Adnan Janujaz is likely to be handed another start, while Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco are also in the running for a spot.
Thomas Meunier, who was suspended for the semi-final, is available again.
Before losing 1-0 to Belgium at this year’s World Cup, England had lost just one of their previous 21 meetings with them (W15 D5).
Belgium and England are the first teams to face twice at a World Cup tournament since Turkey played Brazil twice at the 2002 World Cup.
Belgium have played in this fixture once before, finishing fourth in 1986 after losing 4-2 against France.
Belgium have lost just two of their 26 matches under Roberto Martinez – his first in charge in September 2016 (0-2 vs Spain) and his most recent (0-1 vs France in the semi-final).
England had 15 shots on target in their first two 2018 World Cup matches against Tunisia (8) and Panama (7) but have had just eight in their four games since – exactly two in each match.
England’s only other game in a World Cup third-place play-off match was at the 1990 World Cup – they faced Italy and lost 2-1.
Lukaku has scored 23 goals in his 23 appearances under Roberto Martinez for Belgium, though he has not scored in any of his last three. He has never gone four games without a goal for the national side since the Spaniard has been in charge.
Harry Kane has had just one shot on target in his last three World Cup matches – his penalty goal against Colombia in the last 16. Kane has not had a shot on target in his last four hours and 33 minutes of action at the World Cup.
England’s defeat to Croatia in their last match was their 100th competitive defeat – each of their last six competitive losses have been at major tournaments (five at the World Cup, one at the European Championships).