Hazard and Belgium too good for England in World Cup play-off

Saint Petersburg Stadium

Belgium are the third best team at the 2018 Fifa World Cup after a 2-0 win over England in Saturday's third-place play-off.

The third-place finish is Belgium's best performance at the World Cup. Goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard eventually secured Roberto Martínez's side their best ever finish at the finals, though Southgate can spy a bright future for his young side. But we need to keep improving. This Belgian team should be proud of what it achieved in Russian Federation, but surely they will also be haunted by their inability to finish the job.

12 minute: Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne picks up a pass from Lukaku but goalkeeper Pickford saves it.

For Belgium and their "golden generation", numerous key players should return for the 2022 World Cup, even if Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen will probably be gone by then.

Thomas Meunier took advantage of some slopping defending to score the opener on four minutes before Hazard gave Phil Jones the slip to finish off Gareth Southgate's side on 82 minutes. Croatia is attempting to become the first "new" nation to win the World Cup since 2010 when Spain did it, and become only the ninth team ever to win the most prestigious and most important championship in sports.

It was the first third-place play-off to feature two teams that had met already in the group stage, and it featured much of the strangeness of that dead-rubber Group G clash all those weeks ago in Kaliningrad, with changes made on both sides from the teams that lost their respective semi-finals.

In recent World Cup campaigns, the game usually produces a flurry of goals.

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While Belgium probably should have grabbed a second before half-time, they ultimately weren't punished, as England's second-half fightback proved fruitless before Eden Hazard clinched the bronze with a well-taken goal on the counter.

It may not be how either team had envisioned it, but Belgium and England are playing in the final weekend of the World Cup.

"This game showed there is still room for improvement", Kane told ITV. He wouldn't confirm whether he'd give either of his reserve goalkeepers, Jack Butland and Nick Pope, their first game of the tournament in place of Jordan Pickford. Harry Kane is on six goals and Romelu Lukaku is on four, but I don't expect either to start so that might be a moot point.

Belgium almost doubled its lead in the 35th minute when Youri Tielemans lofted a ball into the area for Toby Alderweireld.

"It's a game we need to play at a good level and we need to have fresh legs". His volley is agonisingly wide of Courtois' goal - it also just evaded the toe of Kane.

It was an anticlimactic way for both these teams - who have given their fans some thrilling moments in Russian Federation - to end the World Cup but Belgium leave with a deserved piece of history.

DF Harry Maguire, 6 - Not his best defensive display, even if there is no shame in being tormented by Hazard and De Bruyne.

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