Both England and Belgium confirmed their places in the round of sixteen, while minnows Panama and Tunisia were knocked out after back to back losses against the big guns. On the last matchday of group stage, it was all about final standings and thereby to decide who plays who in the next round.
Let us start with a quick look at what happened in the big match of Thursday.
England vs Belgium – key events:
England XI (3-5-2): Jordan Pickford; Phil Jones, John Stones (Harry Maguire, 46′), Gary Cahill; Trent Alexander-Arnold (Danny Welbeck, 79′), Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Eric Dier, Fabian Delph, Danny Rose; Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy.
Belgium XI (3-4-2-1): Thibaut Courtois; Leander Dendoncker, Dedryk Boyata, Thomas Vermaelen (Vincent Kompany, 74′); Nacer Chadli, Marouane Fellaini, Mousa Dembele, Adnan Januzaj (Dries Mertens, 86′); Youri Tielemans, Thorgan Hazard; Michy Batshuayi.
Goals: Januzaj (51′).
Yellow cards: Tielemans (19′), Lendoncker (33′).
Belgium got the first good chance of the match, around the 10th minute. After some jostle inside the England box, the ball was going towards the goal, but Cahill managed to clear it just on time. The rest of the first half however did not produce any other golden chance for either of the teams. It was an end-to-end affair with both sides trying to maintain the possession. Also, two Belgian players were booked, to make the fairplay count 5 for them (England had 2 at this point), something that was to consider if the match would end level.
The beginning of the second half was a similar story, Belgium attacking with more intent. And this time, their efforts paid off. After some patient buildup, Januzaj took the ball at the edge of the box, unsettled Rose with decent skills and then sent a stunner to the back of the England nets. The Belgians were 1-0 up with more than half an hour to go.
After the goal, the Barmy Army started to push forward. Rashford got a brilliant one-on-one opportunity minutes later, but the Manchester United player failed to convert the chance. Then, with only seven minutes to go, Arsenal star Welbeck, who came on as a substitute got a big chance from an England corner. But this time, Fellaini was the one to save the day for Belgium. In the end, even after repeated late efforts from England, the scoreline remained 0-1, and Belgium were all set to take on Japan in the next round. England, on the other hand, will face Colombia for a quarter final berth.