Gareth Southgate’s in-form England team are keen not to surrender their winning momentum in the concluding Group G match against Belgium in Kaliningrad.
Both teams are assured of a place in the last-16 after recording impressive victories in each of their first two matches.
Wins over Tunisia and Panama leave the Three Lions and the Red Devils locked together on six points, with eight goals scored and two conceded apiece.
It means a draw would result in their fair play records determining the group winner – England have one more booking on that score. If Belgium even that up lots will be drawn.
The subtext to the match is Germany’s shock loss against Mexico in their first match as defending champions has opened up an arguably more favourable route through the knockout rounds for the second-placed team.
The winner of Group G could be in line to face the winner of a Brazil v Germany last-16 tie.
Not that such permutations are of any concern to England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Another day of training comes to an end for the #ThreeLions.
Tomorrow: we’re off to Kaliningrad! pic.twitter.com/txrdS0tBZv
— England (@England) June 26, 2018
“It’s momentum and we want to keep that moment going. Our mentality is to win every game we can,” he said.
“We just want to keep winning and winning. That’ll put us in good stead. It doesn’t matter who we might play next because to get as far as you can, to get to the final you’re going to have to face these top teams.
“Either way you’re going to have to play them so, if we play them early, that’s how it’s going to be.”
Changes are likely for both teams, with Belgium’s own golden boot contender Romelu Lukaku – one behind Harry Kane on four goals – sitting out training on Tuesday.
Regardless of the star names who miss out, an air of familiarity will remain.
“I’ve been there for a very long time and I know the Premier League very well and all the players,” said Belgium’s Manchester United and former Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini.
“I said it’s going to be a beautiful game. A lot of players after Vincent [Kompany] and myself followed and did well there.
“I think that we should be proud because the “little Belgium” in England is someone and we all made a name for ourselves.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
England – Marcus Rashford
A likely chance to impress for the Manchester United forward, who scored an excellent goal and impressed throughout England’s final pre-tournament friendly against Costa Rica. A knee knock then hindered his progress but Raheem Sterling’s failure to find the net in England’s initial group matches maybe leaves the door to the first XI ajar.
Belgium – Michy Batshuayi
A probable starter in the circumstance, Batshuayi showed he had lost none of his knack for finding the net when he scored Belgium’s final goal in their 5-2 win over Tunisia. Shone on loan at Borussia Dortmund after a mid-season move before injury struck.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the third meeting between England and Belgium at the World Cup, with England so far unbeaten in their encounters. They drew 4-4 in 1954 and the Three Lions won 1-0 in the second round in 1990, with a volley from David Platt.
– Belgium have won just one of their 21 meetings with England (D5 L15) – a 3-2 victory in May 1936.
– Belgium have won each of their last two World Cup matches by a margin of three goals – no team has ever won three consecutive matches at the World Cup by three or more goals.
– England have already scored eight goals in the 2018 World Cup (level with 1954 and 1990). The only time they’ve ever scored more in a single edition of the competition was in 1966 (11 goals).
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