The 3rd place consolation final is always a difficult match to gauge. Neither team truly wants to be there, as the wounds of semi final disappointment are still fresh. Both teams will likely make wholesale changes to their starting lineups and run with their B-squads. Fortunately, both England and Belgium have deep rosters, so the drop off in quality is not too steep. We actually got a preview of what a matchup between both team's B-Squad's look like in the final Group G match. With both teams already qualified for the round of 16, neither teams had an incentive to win the third match, as a win would put them on the more difficult side of the bracket with the likes of Brazil, France, Portugal, Argentina and Mexico. While the other side of bracket presented a more straight forward path to the final. In their earlier meeting Belgium emerged 1-0 through a sublime strike by Adnan Januzaj.
England will likely lineup with Jamie Vardy up front alongside Danny Welbeck or even Marcus Rashford. All three are skilled goal scorers who can be inconsistent at times, but have proven the ability to put away goals in front of the net when given the opportunity. In the midfield, look for England to select a more defensive core of players like Fabien Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The latter two are young players who will be crucial to England's future plans so the experience will be vital for them. Eric Dier will provide a measure of stability in the middle of the park. England's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been a heroic figure for the team throughout the tournament. He will be due for a well-earned rest in this match. His replacement will likely be Jack Butland, who was presumed to be England's top choice goalkeeper before the tournament began. A back line of John Stones, Gary Cahill and Phil Jones have the experience to protect Butland from much of the Belgian attack.
Belgium have a tremendously deep squad, so even their second choice midfield options of Marouane Fellaini, Nacer Chadli and Mousa Dembélé have played critical roles at key times in their World Cup campaign. This may prove to be the difference in the 3rd place match. Belgium will likely select a forward line including Michy Batshuayi, Dries Mertens and Adnan Januaj. The three showed in the first match versus England that they can combine well together and create scoring chances. Defensively, Thomas Vermaelen and Dedryck Boyata will provide some relief to the back line. The major drop-off for Beligum's 2nd unit is in goal. In recent years, Simon Mignolet's form has dipped. Should Roberto Martinez select Mignolet over Thibault Courtois it would be an unnecessary gamble. Look for Belgium to stick with their number 1 goalkeeper in their final match.
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