Kaliningrad (Russia) (AFP) – England manager Gareth Southgate and Belgium’s Roberto Martinez rang the changes for their World Cup Group G decider in Kaliningrad on Thursday, giving squad players a chance to impress ahead of the knockout rounds.
With both sides already through to the last 16, the game, a 1-0 win for Belgium, was a largely stale affair, but some fringe players did make a reasonable case for a starting place.
One of the bright sparks in an otherwise uninspiring England performance. The Manchester United striker was lively on the ball, happy to come deep to kick-start moves and used space cleverly all evening.
But he missed a golden change to level the game on 65 minutes, instead shooting wide in a one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois.
The Liverpool teenager was solid defensively and took corners — the source of several England goals this tournament — in Kieran Trippier’s absence.
He set up Jamie Vardy with a decent chance after 13 minutes and nearly scored a fluke goal when his mis-hit cross almost sneaked in at Courtois’ back post.
Captain for the evening, the Spurs midfielder was England’s pivot, assured if a little safe in possession. There is a sense Southgate prefers Jordan Henderson in this role as a better distributor.
Picked ahead of Leicester’s Harry Maguire, Cahill dealt well with Belgium’s aerial threat and saved what would have been the opening goal of the game, clearing off the line from a goalmouth scramble with 10 minutes gone.
The Crystal Palace man was deployed at the right side of an attacking trident and held up play well in dangerous areas.
He should have hit the target with a header with 10 minutes to go in the first half.
The Chelsea striker on loan to Borussia Dortmund was lively early on. One of the few Belgium players who seemed interested in getting at England’s back three.
The Monaco midfielder looked compact and composed on the ball. His rasping 30-yarder stung the hands of Jordan Pickford early on, but he did pick up a booking that further reduced Belgium’s chances of topping Group G.
Deployed at right wing back, the former Manchester United man was untroubled defensively for most of the night and took his goal well.
Combative, rangy and physical all evening, the Manchester United player won the ball back several times for his side and was as ever a handful in the air. Vital block on Danny Welbeck’s late effort.