Belgium claimed third place at the 2018 World Cup as they deservedly defeated a lacklustre England in Saturday’s third and fourth playoff at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.
Belgium 2 England 0
Meunier (4′) slots home the first
Pickford denies De Bruyne
Kane goes close
Hazard (82′) nets a late second
Belgium were comfortably the stronger side throughout the contest and took an early lead through Thomas Meunier.
England had chances to level most notably from Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Eric Dier but a late Eden Hazard strike ended matters.
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Belgium came out the stronger of the two sides and had the best of the openings in the early stages of the encounter.
In the fourth minute, their probing pressure was made to count when Romelu Lukaku found a pocket of space in the middle of the pitch, before playing in Eden Hazard into the left-hand channel.
The Chelsea star curled a low cross across the six-yard box towards Meunier at the far post. The Paris Saint-Germain right-back raced in and beat Danny Rose for pace, before poking home from close range.
England’s formation of three at the back were leaving spaces and in the 12th minute Lukaku’s pass towards Kevin De Bruyne squirted beyond John Stones and reached the Manchester City maestro.
He fired in a quick-fire shot which seemed to take a deflection, however, Jordan Pickford showed quick reflexes to divert the ball away with a firm hand.
In the 23rd minute the Three Lions created their best opening as Dier’s excellent long pass picked out an onrushing Raheem Sterling, and the forward brought it down brilliantly to set up Kane.
The Tottenham Hotspur goal-machine stumbled but still managed to manufacture a strike which flew just wide of Thibaut Courtois’ post.
Nonetheless, the Belgians were marginally the better side and Hazard came close to making it 2-0 when he darted into the area but saw his goal-bound strike well blocked by Stones.
In the second stanza, Jesse Lingard brought an injection of energy as he found space on the wing, and his low fizzing cross was inches away from being converted by Kane.
The game opening up in the second 45 minutes as chances arrived for both sides. In the 70th minute, a well-weighted Marcus Rashford first time pass saw Dier played in on goal with Courtois to beat.
The midfielder showed composure to dink the ball over the giant goalkeeper, though Toby Alderweireld produced a desperate goal-saving clearance on the line.
Maguire then headed just a yard wide from an excellent set-piece delivery from the impressive Kieran Trippier with just over 15 minutes to go.
With 10 minutes left a stunning counter-attack involving De Bruyne and Dries Mertens saw the latter chip the ball into the path of Meunier, but the defender’s first-time volley was brilliantly saved by Pickford.
With that said, De Rode Duivels sealed the third place at the World Cup as De Bruyne fed in Hazard behind a floundering Phil Jones, and the dynamic forward struck home with confidence at the near post.