Saturday at the World Cup: England and Belgium meet in St Petersburg

The final weekend of the World Cup starts with the third-place play-off between England and Belgium on Saturday.

Ahead of the final between France and Croatia on Sunday, the bronze medal will be handed out in St Petersburg and either Harry Kane or Romelu Lukaku could enhance their claims to win the Golden Boot.

Here’s all you need to know about the game and what’s at stake…

Who’s playing?

England v Belgium (third-place play-off) – Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg, 3pm

What’s the deal?

“This match should never be played,” was Louis van Gaal’s verdict on the third-place play-off clash after the Netherlands were beaten in the semi-finals in 2014.

No doubt some players from Belgium and England feel the same.

However, both Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez have suggested they will be approaching the game seriously and not making wholesale changes to their teams.

In fact, there could be less changes than when England and Belgium met in their final group stage game around a fortnight ago with both already having qualified for the knockout stages.

Belgium won that game 1-0 and the winner of this fixture will get to take home £18.1m in prize money, compared to £16.6m for the losing side.

Perhaps more significantly than the extra cash is the potential to all-but wrap up the Golden Boot.

England’s Harry Kane currently tops the charts with six goals, two ahead of Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku. The closest challengers in Sunday’s final are France duo Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, who have both scored three.

0:49 All 23 England players are fit to play Belgium on Saturday including Kieran Trippier, who has recovered from a groin strain

For Belgium there is also the chance to secure their best World Cup finish – bettering their fourth place in 1986.

Martinez has said “once the dust settles, it’s very much an important fixture”.

“You always want to push the achievements of a football nation,” he added. “And they want to be the best Belgian team ever and are ready to perform.”

England’s only other match in a World Cup third-place play-off match was at the 1990 World Cup when they lost 2-1 to Italy.

Previous meeting

Have two sides ever met twice at the same World Cup with so little at stake in either game?

When they clashed in the group stages, England made eight changes and Belgium made nine, for a game that neither seemed too keen to win for fear of ending up on the “harder” half of the draw.

It was Belgium who ended up edging the contest and finishing top of Group G after Adnan Januzaj’s brilliant strike in the 51st minute.

England reflections

Whatever happens on Saturday, the World Cup will be seen as a success for England.

But what do they need to do to take the next step and how has Southgate changed the mood around the team? Here’s some key reading…

Southgate’s 10 key calls

What next for England?

Nev: Enjoy it, but we must build

What went wrong against Croatia?

LISTEN: World Cup Supplement podcast

Stats of the day

  • Before losing 1-0 to Belgium at this year’s World Cup, England had lost just one of their previous 21 meetings with them (W15 D5).
  • Belgium and England are the first teams to face twice at a World Cup tournament since Turkey played Brazil twice at the 2002 World Cup.
  • Belgium have played in this fixture once before, finishing fourth in 1986 after losing 4-2 against France.
  • Belgium have lost just two of their 26 matches under Roberto Martinez – his first in charge in September 2016 (0-2 vs Spain) and his most recent (0-1 vs France in the semi-final).
  • England had 15 shots on target in their first two 2018 World Cup matches against Tunisia (8) and Panama (7) but have had just eight in their four games since – exactly two in each match.