England versus Belgium: To win or not to win?

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Moscow, June 26 (IANS) To win or not to win? That is the question that England head coach Gareth Southgate and his Belgian counterpart Roberto Martinez are probably asking themselves right now as the draw for the next stages of the World Cup opens up ahead of them.

England and Belgium are already assured of a place in the last 16 of the World Cup after impressive wins over Tunisia and Panama. The European heavyweights will face each other in their final Group G game, with a tie against Senegal, Colombia or Japan waiting in the last 16, reports Xinhua news agency.

All three possible rivals present a difficult challenge, although not an insurmountable one, but if you look beyond the last 16 the panorama changes drastically. The way things stand the winners of Group G would (if they get through to the last 16) have a quarter-final against either Brazil or Germany, with Mexico or Switzerland awaiting the side that finishes second.

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Both the Mexicans and the Swiss have impressed and the Germans and Brazilians are having disappointing World Cups by their high standards. That being said, England and Belgium would probably prefer a quarter-final against Mexico or Switzerland rather than the defending champions or the World Cup’s most successful team.

“Everyone wants to look at a possible pathway,” Martinez said on Monday, before adding, “I don’t think as a professional you can go on a pitch not wanting to win.”

Southgate echoed that sentiment. “I don’t know how we would go into a game not wanting to win and play well, so I think that’s dangerous territory if we start trying to plot and predict where we might end up,” the England coach said.

“We want to win every game of football we go into,” he added, reminding people not to get overconfident after their two opening wins. At Euro 2016 England thought they had a favourable draw in the last 16 but lost 2-1 to Iceland.

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“We had a really favourable draw, we all thought, in the last tournament and it didn’t work out that way… We just have to keep playing as well as we can, keep preparing the team the right way, keep the momentum,” he concluded.

If the game between England and Belgium ends in a draw, fair play would decide which of the two ends up as the winner of the group.

–IANS

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