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England And Belgium Make Sweeping Changes For Clash Neither Wants To Win

KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 27 : Gareth Southgate head coach of England talking to the press during a press conference of the National Soccer Team of England prior to the FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia group G phase match between England and Belgium at the Kaliningrad Stadium on June 27, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia, 27/06/2018 ( Photo by Jimmy Bolcina / Photonews

England face off against Belgium on Thursday night in the Group G decider that neither particularly fancies winning.

Both European sides have already qualified for the knockout stages with respective victories in their first two matches, but finishing second in this pool would arguably give a more favourable run going forward in the competition.

As such, managers Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez have made a multitude of changes to their lineups, with many fringe players getting the opportunity to impress.

The big news from the England camp is that Harry Kane doesn’t start; the Tottenham forward has been on the Golden Boot trail but has been rested here ahead of the last 16. Raheem Sterling has also been left out, as Marcus Rashford partners Jamie Vardy up front.

Elsewhere, Gary Cahill and Phil Jones come into defence to partner John Stones (with Jordan Pickford remaining in goal) while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Danny Rose come into the wing-back places.

In midfield, Eric Dier replaces Jordan Henderson and the base, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fabien Delph operating further ahead in the centre.

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 27: Kieran Trippier and Jamie Vardy share a joke during an England training session on June 27, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

To Belgium next, and Martinez has named what also feels very much like a second-string team.

Dedryck Boyata keeps his place in central defence, partnering Leander Dendoncker and Thomas Vermaelen with Thibaut Courtois remaining ahead of Simon Mignolet in goal.

Nacer Chadli and Youri Tielemans are named as wing-backs with Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele in central midfield, while Adnan Januzaj, Thorgan Hazard and Michy Batshuayi are named as the front trio.

The winner of this match will come up against Japan in the next round, just to throw a bit of balance into the “better to finish second” debate. The loser, meanwhile, will face Colombia in the last 16 after the earlier events in Group H.

Author: The PA Team

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