World Cup – Belgium 1 – 0 England: Five things we learnt

England lost 1-0 to Belgium in their final game of the group stages. A sumptuous goal by Adnan Januzaj sealed the defeat for Gareth Southgate’s men, confirming their place as runners-up of the group. They will now play Costa Rica on Tuesday evening, while Belgium will play Japan on Monday. Yet, despite Costa Rica seeming to be inferior opposition, England will need to be wary of the Colombian counter, if they are to progress to the latter stages of the tournament. 

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Source: The Guardian

Here are five things learned from the game…

1)Trent Alexander Arnold…

A composed Trent Alexander-Arnold excelled on his competitive England debut. He contained Thorgan Hazard down the righthand side, using his pace to ensure he was never out of position. Yet he also thrived as an attacking player, whipping in nine crosses to Jamie Vardy and co. The Liverpool right-back had 51 touches during the game through darting forward runs down the righthand side that aided England’s attack. His vision on the ball was beyond his age, and with a performance like that, he will certainly have caught Gareth Southgate’s eye.

2)  Not the ‘Rose’-iest display…

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Danny Rose may have been included in the side for his pace down the lefthand side, but he struggled in other departments. Lapses in concentration and a clear lack of spatial awareness on his part cost England the three points. This was evident in the buildup to Adnan Januzaj’s goal. Rose allowed the Belgian to cut into the box with his favoured left-foot, allowing him to release a stunning shot. In the ensuing moments, he became more wayward, allowing Michy Batshuayi to run down the byline, nearly leading to Belgium doubling their tally.

3) The English counter?

England may function better against Colombia if they hit them on the counter. Southgate needs to analyse Belgium’s formation more closely to attempt to implement this. This would involve playing both Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier in front of a back three to ensure defensive stability. The five attacking players, perhaps including Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard, would then have the license to thrill further up the pitch. This would rely on absorbing pressure-play from the Colombians for large swathes of the match, as England did in yesterday’s game. They sat back and hit Belgium on the counter through Ruben Loftus-Cheek. If implemented effectively, this may be the preferred style of play to adopt against the sturdier opposition.

4) The ‘Vardy’ effect…

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Whilst he did not get his name on the scoresheet, Vardy was a nuisance for the Belgian defence. His pace and strength made it difficult for Thomas Vermaelen to contain him, and the ageing centre-back was caught out on several occasions. His high pressing would suit England; in yesterday’s game, it led to the Belgium defence giving away possession in dangerous positions. His running off the ball is just as vital as it allows him to slip in behind the opposition defence and cause problems. He may not be the first pick for Southgate, but his aggression and pace will be needed to break down sturdier opposition than Belgium.

5) A Rash performance from Marcus

Another player who underperformed in yesterday’s game was Marcus Rashford, despite being given the license to roam free up front. He appeared lethargic, sloppy, and was often unable to find a teammate in promising situations. This was evident in the 57th minute of the game, where he spurned a massive chance to win the game for England, prior to Janazaj’s goal. His lack of clinical finishing was a contributing factor to England’s loss, and he may be replaced with the more prolific Sterling, who has shown in the past that he has an eye for goal in the moments that matter.

Follow Maryam on Twitter @mnaz98

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