After meeting in the group stages when both sides had already qualified for the knockout rounds, Belgium will face England once again to decide who will take third place in this World Cup. Since a 1-0 win over the Three Lions that day saw Roberto Martinez and his side clinch top spot in Group G, the Belgians pulled off a 3-2 win over Japan before surprising everyone with a 2-1 victory versus five-time champions Brazil.
That would see them enter into a semi-final encounter with France and – despite some spells of good play – they fell victim to a 1-0 defeat to an efficient Les Bleus. England’s 2-1 defeat to Croatia in extra time also puts them in a playoff that neither side may be overly enthusiastic about, however the Belgian boss seems to have a desire to galvanise his side.
“The disappointment is huge... it’s a very sad dressing room right now,” admitted Martinez to Reuters after the semi-final loss. “You’re disappointed because you lose the semi-final, and it’s very difficult to see the opportunity of playing another game as a positive. We need to regroup and recover and see the opportunity. To try to finish third in the World Cup doesn’t happen often. The only time it happened in Belgian football was in 1986, when we finished fourth.”
Indeed England have only ever played in one of these matches, after being eliminated on penalties to Germany in Italia ‘90. Then, they lost 2-1 to Italy in Bari, and while the disappointment is still fresh for Gareth Southgate’s young crop of players, they will no doubt want to end a wonderful run in this tournament on a high.
The Three Lions have won 15 from their last 21 encounters versus the Belgians, their only defeat in this period suffered during the group stages of this tournament. That said, a talented Belgium did not go to extra time in their last match and will benefit from extra rest and for that reason alone it may well be worth a bet on Belgium to win with the best odds listed at 5/4 via Betway.
Gareth Southgate is also likely to make changes to his side, with Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Fabian Delph all looking good for a place in the starting XI on Saturday, a factor that could affect the result. "It's not a game any team wants to play in," Southgate admitted to the BBC after the defeat to Croatia. "We have two days to prepare. We will want to give a performance of huge pride. Every time we wear the shirt we want to play well and win. It's going to be a really difficult task. We've made such strides with our supporters and public that we want to continue to do that."
There have been under 2.5 goals scored in England’s last four matches in all competitions, while Belgium have seen under 2.5 in their last three meetings with their third-place playoff opponent. This means that football betting fans should look to back this outcome with odds of 2.30 available via Bet365.
Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku has been praised for some excellent all-round performances in this tournament, the striker a key part of the Belgium setup. Still only 25 years old, Lukaku has fired in 23 goals in his 23 appearances under the current Belgium boss.
Despite such an impressive record the Antwerp-native has not managed to score in any of his last three, however he’s never gone four games without a goal for the national team since Martinez has been in charge. This certainly leads to the assumption that he is due another goal.
888sport offer odds of 17/3 that Lukaku will score first, or alternatively you could opt for 5/4 on anytime. The same site will give you 9/10 on the striker to make over 1.5 shots in the match or 21/20 that he will take the most shots of any player including extra time. Harry Kane may be chasing the Golden Boot but has now failed to find the net in two whole matches, his last goal coming via a penalty versus Colombia.
This streak seems more concerning as England have created less and less chances as a whole in their last two matches, making Lukaku seem a more attractive proposition to back on this occasion.
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