Belgium’s golden generation lived up to their high billing by dispatching England 2-0, Saturday evening at the Saint Petersburg Stadium to clinch World Cup bronze.
Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils are now officially their country’s greatest ever football side as they surpassed Enzo Scifo, Jan Cuellemans and Jean Marie Pfaff who finished fourth at Mexico ’86.
On the basis of his World Cup performances, Thomas Meunier is going to take some convincing to sit on the Paris Saint Germain bench (he plays second fiddle to Daniel Alves) when the regular season commences.
The towering wing back put Belgium ahead just four minutes into the game when he outpaced England’s Danny Rose to stab home fellow wing back Nacer Chadli’s well weighted cross.
Eden Hazard’s already blue chip stock skyrocketed through the roof when he played soccer for the ages to mastermind his teams’ second victory over England at Russia 2018.
Precision counter attacking football is Belgium’s stock in trade. Once again both their goals came through that route.
Chadli was withdrawn before the breather after he tore his hamstring making another trademark blistering run into the England mixer but Russia 2018 has redeemed his footballing reputation and clubs will be lining up to save him from the ignominy of playing in the Championship with his relegated club West Bromwich Albion.
The Three Lions were buzzing and both Dier and Harry Maguire could have done better with headers in quick secession on 72 and 73 minutes but they failed to test Courtois.
They were to regret their profligacy as Hazard soon found time and space to shoot past Jordan Pickford for Belgium’s second.
England were a much better outfit after halftime. Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate jerked his side from a first half slumber by introducing Jesse Lindgard and Marcus Rashford for ineffective duo Raheem Sterling and Rose.
Spurred on by fresh legs, they pressed Belgium but wayward finishing let them down. Midway through the half Eric Dier found himself in a one in one with Red Devils custodian Thibaut Courtois, only for his chipped shot to be cleared off the line by Tottenham Hotspur team mate Toby Alderweireld.