Football may not be coming home for England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but they’ve still got a chance to go out on a high note against Belgium.
Gareth Southgate’s side were fancied to reach the final but fell 2-1 to Croatia in the semi-finals in extra time, leaving them facing a third-place play-off against Belgium, who were beaten 1-0 by France.
Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s clash:
Head-to-head: England 15 wins, Belgium 3 wins, 4 draws
On the face of it, this is a meaningless match that will be of little consolation to England and Belgium after their semi-final heartbreak.
It’s largely been a one-sided rivalry in England’s favour over the years, but Belgium edged the group-stage encounter between the two sides a couple of weeks ago.
Adnan Januzaj scored the only goal of that group H encounter, though Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez heavily rotated their sides with qualification for the last 16 already secured.
There have been some famous ties between the two sides – England beat Belgium 1-0 after extra time thanks to David Platt’s 119th-minute winner in the round of 16 at Italia ‘90.
Coincidentally, that year was the last time England had reached the semi-finals of a World Cup before this summer in Russia.
England and Belgium also shared a 4-4 draw in the group stages of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, with a goal for each side in added time.
Expect more rotation when the two sides meet in St Petersburg, with the England and Belgium managers likely to give some of their squad players another run out as a thank you for their efforts.
“We’ve set the standard of how we work, the standard of how we play, and we want to maintain those standards right to the end. The players did that this morning in training,” Southgate said on Friday.
“We have to decide who can go again physically. Everyone wants to play. Everyone trained this morning. Sometimes it’s not always a good decision to play if people’s energy isn’t quite there.
“It won’t be exactly the same starting eleven, but we want ideally to make as few changes as possible.”
Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku would certainly like to have the chance to shoot it out for the Golden Boot – Kane has six goals to Lukaku’s four in Russia, but the strikers looked out on their feet during the semi-finals.
“There have been some exceptional individual performances and we are very proud that Harry Kane is the top scorer,” Southgate said.
Martinez is also keen to go out of the tournament playing attractive football to inspire the next generation, meaning he could limit his changes.
“We want to win. When you finish a tournament you carry the feeling of the last game … Every Belgian fan deserves that winning feeling,” he said.
“For us the way you play is essential, not just for this tournament but for future generations.”
Belgium are targeting their best finish at a World Cup, having finished fourth in 1986 after losing 4-2 against France in extra time of the play-off.
“We need to have everyone fully fit on the pitch. There are players who have played a lot of minutes and we need to have that in mind,” Martinez said.
“We’re going to have the strongest team on the pitch but maybe changes will need to be made.”
Jordan Pickford and Thibaut Courtois retained their places in goal during the first meeting, but that was likely done to keep their momentum going.
Now with nothing really on the line, reserve goalkeepers Jack Butland and Simon Mignolet could be thrown in, but Southgate did not confirm who would start in goal for England.
Belgium (3-4-3): Courtois, Vermaelen, Boyata, Kompany, Dendoncker, Dembele, Fellaini, Chadli, Hazard, Mertens, Lukaku
England (3-5-2): Butland, Cahill, Stones, Maguire, Walker, Rose, Dier, Loftus-Cheek, Delph, Rashford, Kane