England manager Gareth Southgate believes creative players including Dele Alli have the potential to “hurt” Belgium in their 2018 World Cup group clash.
The Three Lions and Belgium were drawn alongside Panama and Tunisia in Group G in Friday’s draw at the Kremlin in Moscow.
While Southgate will be expected to lead England through a straightforward pool, a clash with Belgium in their final group game in Kaliningrad could prove decisive for both sides.
But Southgate is backing his young team’s creative talents to come out on top against Roberto Martinez’s men, with Belgium’s squad packed with Premier League stars including Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
“Dele is a very exciting player – and we have other exciting, creative players as well,” Southgate told Omnisport.
“The nice thing is, I don’t think the pressure is just on one player in our team.
“We have a lot of young players in particular who are coming through, who can create goals, who can score goals.
“It’s good that we have that competition for places as well.”
It’s more than years since we last played Belgium. Remember this, @DannyWelbeck?
— England (@England) December 2, 2017
England and Belgium suffered surprises losses at Euro 2016, the Three Lions heading out to Iceland in the last 16 while Martinez’s team lost to Wales in the quarter-finals.
And Southgate is under no illusions that facing Belgium – ranked fifth in the world, 10 places above England – will be a serious challenge.
“They have top, top players and we see them every week, so we know how good they are,” Southgate added.
“There will be no surprise for us, but we know that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop them from playing and to go and try to hurt them with the ball.”
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