Southgate urges England to play Belgium without fear

Southgate urges England to play Belgium without fear

England and Belgium have both already punched their tickets to the knockout round of the 2018 World Cup, but that doesn't mean that their matchup on Thursday will be without outcome.

"The majority of Belgian players, they play in England". With qualification for the Round of 16 secure after the first back-to-back opening World Cup victories since 2006, it is not a must-win game, yet Gareth Southgate is a believer in competitive spirit and momentum, meaning that they will be out for victory.

It's unusual for England to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup with a game to spare, but it is even more unusual that defeat in their last group match could actually be beneficial. That's not a route for a successful team.

Russian Federation 2018 will be his fifth World Cup.

"Tomorrow we want to perform well but the priority is not to win", Martinez told a pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

Southgate said it was "dangerous territory" to try to plot a favourable path but let's delve into it here. "Thibaut Courtois has been at a very good level, and I think it is positive for him to carry on playing, so I can guarantee you he will start tomorrow".

But in Belgium they face the world´s third-ranked side, and a squad loaded with world-class talent such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.

Southgate has already insisted that England will go into the match with the intention of winning the game, though Roberto Martinez is expected to make wholesale changes to his Belgium starting XI and is happy to finish second.




Unlike Southgate, the former Everton and Wigan manager said he was approaching Thursday´s game with one eye firmly on the knockout rounds.

"I think there is a clear structure, there has been a real tactical awareness, there has been a change of system to go into different qualifying games".

"There are players with yellow cards, and I don't think it would be professional for us to put those players in a risk to miss the knockout phase".

The England boss kept his cards close to his chest, only confirming that Eric Dier would make his first World Cup start.

"It just shows that any team can be vulnerable", said Southgate, who more than most Englishmen has suffered at the hands of German footballers.

Japan coach Akira Nishino has warned his players against complacency when they meet the already eliminated Poles.

The group winners will play Group H's runners-up on Monday night, with the side finishing second facing whoever tops that section 24 hours later.

If they manage to get over that huge hurdle, they have the intimidating prospect of France, Argentina, Uruguay or Portugal waiting in the semi-final.

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