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Expect motivated England to go for victory

Gareth Southgate wants to win the group

England manager Gareth Southgate embraces skipper Harry Kane
1 of 1

Group G
ITV, 7pm Thursday

The prize of finishing top of Group G might not be worth fighting for but England are not in the mood to play for a tactical draw or defeat and can get the better of Belgium in Kaliningrad.

By the time the match kicks off, Group H will be settled and the teams will know the value of finishing first or second.

Colombia look the obvious team to avoid, while Japan or Senegal might be seen as favourable round-of-16 opponents.

But England manager Gareth Southgate is unlikely to leave his team selection until the Group H matches have finished (just two hours before kick-off in Kaliningrad) and will probably resist the temptation to make wholesale changes.

He has spoken of his desire to win the group and maintain the positive vibe created by victories over Tunisia (2-1) and Panama (6-1).

The players on yellow cards – Kyle Walker and Ruben Loftus-Cheek - are likely candidates to be rested and there may be a temptation to hand starts to Gary Cahill, Eric Dier and Danny Rose, who have been close to selection and may be needed at a later stage in the tournament.

But it looks like being a strong England side and one who should have a decent chance against a Belgian team who are likely to bear little resemblance to the line-ups who dispatched Panama (3-0) and Tunisia (5-2).

Roberto Martinez has been open about his intention to make wholesale changes and hasn't ruled out changing every outfield player.

The three booked Belgians - Kevin De Bruyne, Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Meunier – are not expected to play and minor injuries are likely to rule out Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens.

It means an opportunity for the Belgian fringe players, plus Vincent Kompany, who is back in training and pushing for his first appearance of the tournament.

Belgium's squad strength is about to be put to the test and it is an assignment they are likely to fail.

There are a few top-notch players waiting in the wings – notably Kompany and Mousa Dembele, who has bossed the Tottenham midfield in recent seasons.

But there are also some potential weak links which England could expose.

Thomas Vermaelen has not played much football in recent seasons – failing to register more than 14 league appearances in a campaign since leaving Arsenal four years ago. His sharpness is in question and Kompany could be rusty, having played just 54 minutes in the last seven weeks.

The defensive concerns do not stop there with Nacer Chadli in line to replace Meunier at right wing-back.


Match reports

Tunisia 1 England 2

Belgium 3 Panama 0

Belgium 5 Tunisia 2

England 6 Panama 1


Chadli is used to playing much further forward at club level and had a miserable season at West Brom, scoring one goal in five league appearances.

Belgium have better depth further up the pitch but the absences of Eden Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku would hurt any team.

England look less reliant on a core of key players, although confidence in the Three Lions would decrease if Harry Kane were left out.

However, England are growing into the tournament and look a solid bet to make it three wins from three against an understrength Belgium.

Recommendation
England
1pt 9-5 Betfair


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The lowdown

England
Team news
Dele Alli (calf) is in contention and Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Gary Cahill are strong candidates for starts.

Strengths
England have looked one of the strongest teams in the tournament from set-pieces with Kieran Trippier providing some excellent deliveries. Harry Kane is the one world-class player and looks full of confidence.

Weaknesses
The back three has not been seriously tested by could be exposed by better opposition. England's wing-backs are playing high up the pitch and often leave space behind them.

Key man
Kane went to the top of the tournament scoring charts with his hat-trick against Panama and will be keen the stay on the goal trail.

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Belgium
Team news
Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen are back in contention but Eden Hazard (calf), Dries Mertens (knock) and Romelu Lukaku (ankle) are doubts.

Strengths
They have plenty of depth in midfield. Premier League duo Mousa Dembele and Marouane Fellaini are among the players set to come into the side.

Weaknesses
The second-choice defence looks vulnerable with Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen short of match action.

Key man
Dembele is a class act when at his best and will relish the chance to impress against players he knows so well.

Weather
Partly cloudy with 12mph breezes and 18C in Kaliningrad.

Key stat
England are unbeaten in their last 12 matches.


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