Belgium, England to play in ‘second dead rubber’

By Mark Namanya in Moscow

After painful semi-final losses in midweek, Belgium and England must collect themselves to compete against one another for the third place playoff in St Petersburg.
The contest of best losers is hardly one to make the earth shake but there is the small matter of the Golden Boot race.
England’s Harry Kane has six goals and is looking to become the first English topscorer at the World Cup since Gary Lineker, who managed the same number in 1986.
He is heavy favourite to finish with the Golden Boot considering that his rival for the gong is Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian centre forward, with four goals.
It will be the second time the two teams compete at the tournament having faced off in the group stage.
That encounter in Kaliningrand ended 1-0 in Belgium’s favour but the two teams put out largely experimental squads – both had already secured places in the knock out stages.
The match will be played in Saint Petersburg stadium and it remains to be seen what kind of atmosphere will be generated in Russia’s second biggest city.
English fans in the lead up to the Croatia match sang their voices hoarse with their ‘It’s coming home, it’s coming home’ chant and must adjust to the reality that it won’t be flying to Heathrow on Monday morning.
Like England, Belgium head back knowing they left a mark on the tournament, with their most impressive performance coming in the 2-1 victory over five-time champions Brazil.
But with the abundance of talent at their disposal, Robert Martinez will leave with a tinge of regret.
Unlike England whose team’s transition under Gareth Southgate has been a success, Belgium lined up what is arguably the greatest collection in their history and the way forward from here is anyone’s guess.


TODAY – Sat July 14
Third-place play-off
Belgium vs England – St Petersburg, 5pm
France vs Croatia – Moscow (Luzhniki), 6pm
The 2014 World Cup saw a joint-high number of goals scored (171).
James Rodriguez became the first player to score in his first five career World Cup appearances since Peru’s Teofilo Cubillas (across the 1970 and 1978 tournaments).
There were more goals scored by substitutes in this World Cup than in any previous edition (32).
13.3% of shots have been scored at these finals; a higher proportion than in any other World Cup tournament since records began in 1966.
There were only three direct free-kicks scored at these finals, the fewest since 1986 (3). In 2010 there were five scored, while in 2006 and 2002, nine were scored.
The only World Cup to see more own goals than this tournament (5) was the 1998 finals (6).
Tim Cahill has scored in three World Cups for Australia; no other Australian has done so in more than one tournament.
Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan (6) overtook Cameroon’s Roger Milla (5) as all-time top scoring African player at a World Cup.
Algeria became the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup game when they beat South Korea 4-2.
Keisuke Honda became the first Japanese player to score at two separate World Cups.
Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored the first entirely left-footed hat-trick at a World Cup (1966-2014). His treble was also the 50th hat-trick in the history of the World Cup.
Clint Dempsey’s goal (29 seconds) vs Ghana for the USA was the fifth fastest in World Cup history.

*The writer is this paper’s Sports Editor

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