England plays their last game of group G at the World Cup against Belgium on Thursday night in Kaliningrad. There have been suggestions in the press that it would be better for England to finish second in Group G than topping the group.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has dismissed the notion that the Three Lions would get a more comfortable path if they did indeed finish as runners-up in the group.
England needs to continue the positive momentum
Great positive momentum and atmosphere are surrounding the England team at the minute. Southgate’s side headed into the tournament with little expectation, but the team have looked very good at times in Russia.
The 6-1 win over Panama last time out was their biggest ever at a World Cup. The Central American team were awful, but England could only beat what was put in front of them. They did and produced an encouraging performance in the process.
Teams that do well in big tournaments and competitions thrive on momentum. The intangible quality can take a team a long way. England has it right now, and it is crucial that they maintain it for as long as possible.
Belgium will want to win the game
Belgium will also want to win the game. If they choose to put out a full-strength team, they could prove to be too good for Southgate’s side, as the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku have already produced some good moments at Russia 2018.
Boss Roberto Martinez is also unlikely to take England likely. The Spaniard will want his team to continue their winning run in Russia. The Red Devils have the quality to trouble any team in the world, but they have slipped up at vital times in recent big international competitions.
Martinez and his team will be keen to avoid any such slip-ups in Russia. Their sole aim will be on beating England and topping the group. I cannot see any of those players in the Belgium camp playing with the intention of not winning the group.
Surprisingly, the Red Devils are slight underdogs to beat England at odds of 2/1. Even as an Englishman, those odds seem slightly strange considering the talent available to Belgium boss Martinez.
Need to win the last 16 game first
It seems silly that people are already looking beyond the last 16 of the competition and talking about potential quarter-final opponents for both these teams. The pair are unaware of who they will face in the last 16 of the competition, yet people are talking about the winners of Group H facing the likes of Germany and Brazil in the quarter-finals.
Those two legendary World Cup nations have not even confirmed their place in the knockout stages yet. It seems unlikely, but in the next few days, one or both teams could exit the competition, then the half of the draw which team are in would not matter.
For me, England needs to keep playing the way they have been at World Cup 2018 and winning their games. None of the big football nations has been particularly impressive in the competition so far, so at the minute it is hard to judge who would be easier opponents for the Three Lions anyway.
The fact that we are in the last 16 of the World Cup is a vast improvement on four years ago when we went home at the group stage having picked up just one point from three group games.
Even the most optimistic England fan will know that it will be highly challenging for the Three Lions to lift the trophy. However, the mood around the camp seems confident, and Gareth Southgate has dealt with a number of issues without fuss, including this issue.
Finishing top of the group will keep spirits high in the camp and that is that is the most important factor heading into the knockout stages.
Who will win Group H at the World Cup?
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