Since England’s golden generation squad’s elimination at World cup 2010 by the hands of Germany and to add to their utter dismay- a wrongly goal disallowed by Frank Lampard, ‘The Three Lions’ have been hard on luck. Also Read - FIFA World Cup 2018: Deflated England, Belgium Get Ready For Third Place Clash
“We all dream of winning but we haven’t been able to. It’s not for the want of trying. We have just come up short at different times,” said Frank Lampard in an interview. Also Read - FIFA World Cup 2018: Radamel Falcao Slams Refereeing in Colombia-England Match
The squad which comprised of some of the most iconic names in world football- Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Ashley Cole and others- all world beaters in one team- carried all of England’s hope of lifting the 24-carat trophy. Also Read - FIFA World Cup 2018: English Striker Harry Kane is a Complete Player, Belgium's Thomas Vermaelen Says
Cut to 8 years later- World Cup 2018 in Russia and in comes a certain striker who is tipped to be one of England’s all-time greatest if not the greatest- Harry Kane.
The Tottenham Hostpurs Striker is currently the top goal scorer in the tournament with 5 goals in the group stages with a game remaining and is favourite to win the golden boot.
“It’s coming home”, chant the ‘Three Lions’ fans, their ‘dream of winning’ is not buried, not yet, not with Harry Kane leading their squad.
On paper, England are not of the favourites in the world cup- but the beautiful game favours no one as already witnessed with the current champions- Germany already knocked out of the tournament.
Why would England losing to Belgium make strategic sense?
England have not gone beyond the knock-outs stage in any competition in the last 12 years. keeping that in mind, a loss would not be desirable by any England fan, but from a strategic point of view, it makes sense for England to lose or draw against Belgium because the possibilities of England’s road to finals could be enhanced with an easier round of fixtures.
Of course, there is a last 16 tie against one of Japan, Senegal and Colombia – and that game should not be dismissed out of hand as an easy win. England have not won a knockout game at a major tournament in 12 years, and that includes defeat against Iceland.
But beyond that, the relative weight of each side cannot be understated: Brazil (second), Argentina (fifth), France (seventh) and Portugal (fourth), are four of the top seven teams in the world. England are ranked 12th.
Whereas, on the other side of the draw, only Switzerland (sixth) and Spain (10th) are ranked above Gareth Southgate’s side.
Belgium’s manager Roberto Martinez has addressed the media on priorities going into the knock-out stages-. “We have qualified and that was the priority,” he said. “Now we need to look at our individual players. We want to perform well but the priority is not to win. That is the reality, we have put ourselves in this situation, we wanted to qualify and we have done that.”
The Belgium side will be much changed, with Lukaku, Vertonghen, De Bruyne and Thomas Meunier not expected to play.
In the England camp, Southgate’s sound bites are very different. “We want to win every game of football,” he said. “I don’t know how we would go into a game not wanting to win and not wanting to play well, so I think that’s dangerous territory if we start trying to plot and predict where me might end up.”
It will be interesting to note where England’s faith lies but if they want to bring the trophy home, they would need some luck to balance opposition better chances pertaining to better squads- but as earlier mentioned, in the beautiful game of football, it doesn’t matter who are favourites.