Win over England not priority for Belgium


Belgium's forward Eden Hazard (L) shoots and scores a goal during the international friendly football ...
Belgium's forward Eden Hazard (L) shoots and scores a goal during the international friendly football match between Belgium and Egypt at the King Baudouin Stadium, in Brussels, on June 6, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS

In Summary

  • One of sport's old adages is "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" but not for Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, at least not when his team take on England in their final World Cup round-robin match to decide top spot in Group G
  • Normally a battle between European neighbours for first place at a World Cup would bring out the win-at-all-cost cliches but with Belgium already assured a spot in the last 16 along with England, Martinez was looking ahead for bigger scalps in the knockout round

One of sport’s old adages is “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” but not for Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, at least not when his team take on England in their final World Cup round-robin match to decide top spot in Group G.

Normally a battle between European neighbours for first place at a World Cup would bring out the win-at-all-cost cliches but with Belgium already assured a spot in the last 16 along with England, Martinez was looking ahead for bigger scalps in the knockout round.

Martinez’s thinking, however, ran counter to that of England coach Gareth Southgate who made it clear that his squad will be out for victory on Thursday to build momentum ahead the knockout phase. Martinez even called it a “celebration game” as so many of the Belgian and English players play together at club level.

Martinez had earlier suggested he was prepared to make wholesale changes to his side and at the very least was expected to rest defender Jan Vertonghen, winger Thomas Meunier and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who have all picked up a yellow card. A second yellow would mean they would be suspended for the round of 16 game.

He also added that striker, Romelu Lukaku, Belgium’s all-time leading scorer, could miss the game as he recovers from a knock suffered against Tunisia.

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