Belgium saw off England in Kaliningrad on Thursday night to claim top spot in World Cup Group G with maximum points.
Both sides made a number of changes for the decider as both had already secured a place in the last 16. There was also a sense that both Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate would not have been overly upset to lose this match, given the presumed difference in difficulty between the two different pathways through the knockout stages.
A largely uneventful match, and one that had all the hallmarks of both sides going through the motions, was interspersed with moments of quality but offered little insight into either team going forward.
The main moment of quality, when it finally did come, arrived courtesy of a player who, in another time, could actually have been playing for England. Adnan Januzaj, the former Manchester United wonderkid whose time in the Premier League fizzled out before he quietly departed for Real Sociedad, curled a well-hit strike past Jordan Pickford to give Belgium what would turn out to be the winner early in the second half.
The Red Devils have emerged as group winners, with a clash against Japan in the last 16 their reward for their efforts. England, meanwhile, have got what they wanted in terms of the result and group standings – but they should be careful what they wish for, as they now have a tougher task in the form of Colombia awaiting them in the knockout stages.
Not often I hope I’m wrong, but I think that was a really poor night. Gareth Southgate said he wanted to top the group, but when you bring on Welbeck over Kane at 1-0 down, clearly disproves that. Piles on the pressure.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) June 28, 2018
Not the best performance of the tournament. #England will need to raise they game up against Colombia ?? next week
— fabrice muamba (@fmuamba) June 28, 2018
Losing doesn’t greatly matter, but I think England would have wanted to play a lot better than that.
— Jonathan Northcroft (@JNorthcroft) June 28, 2018
I like Gareth Southgate and it may prove a masterstroke further down the line making the changes… but he has put massive pressure on himself and the team against Columbia… Bottom line England lost to a team that didn’t even want to win…
— Chris Sutton (@chris_sutton73) June 28, 2018
This idea England just blow away Colombia…have we taken leave our collective senses? I’d call that tie 50/50 at best for England. Hope Southgate is proven right but I’d rather have been facing Japan with our main men firing and momentum maintained ?
— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) June 28, 2018