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England v Belgium talking points: Both nations have a point to prove

| 28.06.2018

England play Belgium in Kaliningrad to decide the winner of Group G in a mouth-watering clash.

It’s a fascinating game in many regards, with the possibility of the second-placed side having an easier route through the knockout phase.

But will that really be a consideration for both these teams? Momentum is important in a tournament. And neither side will want to be beaten.

England and Belgium have been tipped up to go far in the tournament. And their performances against Tunisia and Panama underpinned their statuses as good footballing sides.

However, this is the first time these sides will come up against a top nation in this World Cup. And it could be a real chance to set down a marker for the rest of the tournament.

It is true that the winner of this group could possibly meet one of Brazil, Germany, or France in the quarter-finals. But the last-16 game still needs to be navigated first.

And second place will still face a tough task no matter what route they face. This is the World Cup after all. They are no easy games when you get to the knockouts.

It’s rumoured that both Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez will rotate their line-ups. But that shouldn’t dilute the quality of this game in the slightest. In fact, it could even make it more fun.

The squad members coming in will want to impress. Neither XI is set in stone and both managers will be keen for players to stick their hand up for a place in the team.

For the Three Lions, Danny Rose could come in for Ashley Young on the left flank. The Tottenham Hotspur ace would provide excellent balance and looked good in the warm-up v Costa Rica.

Fabian Delph could also play in midfield alongside or for Jordan Henderson. The Manchester City impressively linked up with Rose on the left in that final warm-up game at Elland Road.

Gary Cahill is likely to come in for Harry Maguire to give the England defence a bit of experience against a top outfit.

If football truly is coming home, proof will be in a Belgium-shaped pudding. Or at least it will be the real beginning of the journey.

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Cian Carroll

Starting life as a football columnist for his local paper in Dundalk, Cian has written for a number of media outlets with pieces published in The Birmingham Mail and Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. A lover of football, GAA, boxing, rugby and MMA, he’s a big Aston Villa and Dundalk fan. He can be regularly spotted on various mountain tops.