Gareth Southgate: England players fully behind my Belgium decisions
Jun 30 2018
With the benefit of being the last teams to play in the group stage, both teams will have full knowledge of the knockout bracket by the time they kickoff at 6am - which may lead to the odd situation of both teams attempting to lose the match. I can't imagine a situation where I talk to the players about anything else.
John Adamson, 48, of Ryhope, said: "The other two matches we've looked like we've got loads of goals in us but tonight, maybe because there were so many changes to the side, we didn't seem to have anywhere near as much threat".
Rare that there is ever a moment to be so relaxed at a World Cup, but he has earned it. Southgate has been clear in his intention to let the players loose socially, to do their own thing, to treat them as responsible adults and let that permeate onto the pitch on match-days.
"No words!" chided the best-selling Bild daily, over a picture of a despondent-looking Toni Kroos. England lost the top spot after dropping Harry Kane, the tournament's leading scorer, and seven others.
In reality, the answer can only be given after Tuesday's last-16 game when Southgate's England are restored to full force.
His second-choice lineup delivered the result most English fans hoped it would; The result, perhaps, England's bench thought it would, or at least weren't concerned it might.
"None of us know if this side of the draw is advantageous or not".
Facing questions over whether he might have preferred to finish second - a draw or defeat would have had that effect - Martinez said: "Honestly, I am delighted". The knockout game is the important one.
Each manager exploited the luxury of resting key players for this game and despite the controversy it may generate, both Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate arguably have to play the long game in this World Cup. Goalless by half-time, the players were jeered off. Supporters had travelled from far and at great expense to see this and they were being short-changed, by all the changes.
Just short of 10 minutes of England's third group game had passed when Pickford made his first save of the tournament, doing just about enough to keep out a stinging shot from Youri Tielemans.
"When you're a leader and a manager, you have got to make decisions that are right for your group and are right for the primary objective", the Three Lions boss said.
I said before the game that I didn't agree with making so many changes even despite the reports that Belgium were going to do so as well.
Martinez has hailed the pleasure his whole squad have been taking on the pitch and has worked to build a team spirit where clashes of egos bedevilled the Belgians under his predecessor Marc Wilmots at the last World Cup and at Euro 2016.
The match was in desperate need of a spark, given the nature of Fifa's Fair Play tie-breaker rules. It felt like a proper World Cup match in the stands, even if it was a unusual affair on it, with two of the best benches in World Cup history. "It wouldn't authentic for what we've been trying to build for the last two years".
"Making predictions in the World Cup can be a little bit hard", Martinez answered.