Southgate: Impossible to plan for second

England faces a potentially winnable last 16 clash against either Japan or Senegal but manager Gareth Southgate is cautious about looking too far ahead.

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The Three Lions have already secured their passage to the knockout rounds and could end on top of Group G with a win over Belgium on Thursday.

However, the Red Devils are one of the favourites of the World Cup in Russia, and Southgate has suggested his side settle for second place.

Belgium saw off Panama 3-0 and Tunisia 5-2 in their two opening games and will provide a serious test for England.

Southgate’s side could also potentially avoid facing Brazil and Germany with a second-placed group finish.

Ahead of facing Belgium, the England boss said: “For our country, that would be a very difficult mindset to have. We want to win every game of football we go into.

“I don’t know how we would go into a game not wanting to win and not wanting to play well. So, I think that’s dangerous territory if we start trying to plot and predict where we might end up.

“I think we just have to keep playing as well as we can, keep preparing the team the right way, keep the momentum and I have to keep the squad involved. That’s the one thing I think is really important.”

Southgate added: “We look at who England could face in the World Cup knockout stages.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve played all the top teams – we haven’t been able to beat any of these teams yet.

“We all know the quality of the Belgium squad and the individuals they have. But we think we can be competitive in all those games – and let’s see.

“We are improving and I think the lads are gaining belief in what we are doing and confidence from their performances. I’ve said all along I don’t want to limit what they feel is possible and that’s still how I feel.”

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