Analysis: Have England suffered for the lack of a No. 10
Written by: Neelav Chakravarti
The Red Divils looked to be the better side throughout the 90 minutes, with the Three Lions registering only one worthy effort on goal.
Although, this is their best ever World Cup finish, the Red Devils will still be disheartened as they would have preferred the finals rather than a third-place finish. Roberto Martinez has quite a good squad in his disposal, but this was probably the only chance for Belgium's golden generation to win the trophy. Nevertheless, a 2-0 victory over their opponents was good enough to reach a third-place finish.
Meanwhile, it has been pretty hard for the English fans to swallow the reality that it's not coming home anymore, although their youthful side had a pretty good World Cup when compared to its recent editions. This tournament has shown us that The Three Lions have a golden generation of footballers amongst their ranks. The likes of Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard, and Jordan Pickford will hopefully keep their place and form in the years to come. This World Cup should be taken on a positive note (although a few tactical changes need to be made), and England could be favorites for Qatar 2022.
Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne and Thomas Meunier are key to Belgium
Eden Hazard was back at his best against England. He seemed to be everywhere in the opposition's half, creating problems with and without the ball. Martinez has been trying to build a good partnership between Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. Although there have been some flickers of brilliance between them, this fixture epitomized what Martinez has been trying to do - as De Bruyne laid down a scrumptious assist for Hazard's goal.
De Bruyne needs to be used as a proper number 10, which Martinez has been failing to do so yet. But this match, the Manchester City put in a good display again, dictating the game and it was enough to achieve third-place.
Watch: Belgium 2-0 England highlights
One of Belgium's best strengths in this tournament has been their wing-backs in the form of Thomas Meunier, Yannick Carrasco, and Nacer Chadli. Meunier is known for his famed right foot via which he has already scored a few goals for PSG. Carrasco is known for his pace and trickery from the left-hand side, and so is Chadli. Against England, Martinez started with Meunier and Chadli. Meunier scored the goal, meanwhile, Chadli almost laid down an assist for him later in the second half. Both of them had a pretty decent game against England with their runs during attacks.
The Thibaut Courtois has really taken this World Cup in his hands and made it his with some stunning saves throughout the tournament. Belgium might not have even progressed through the quarter-finals if he would not have pulled off a stunning save from a Neymar attempt in the dying stages.
England need more creativity rather than just dominating possession
For the majority of the 90 minutes, Gareth Southgate's men had more of the ball but couldn't really go past the Belgian backline and Courtois. This has been the story for England throughout the tournament - with eight out of 12 goals scored from set-pieces.
The presence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fabian Delph didn't help at all. Even if Dele Alli or Jordan Henderson or Jesse Lingard would have started, it wouldn't have made much of a difference. Delph and Loftus-Cheek looked like confused throughout the game, with the Belgian midfield dominating them in terms of better passes and interceptions.
Against Belgium, England was almost absent in the first half in terms of creating chances. They looked like headless chickens. Meanwhile, in the second half, the only proper chance they had was a cheeky Dier attempt.
England need a proper number 10
Throughout the tournament, The Three Lions lacked a proper number 10, unlike Belgium's De Bruyne.
Loftus-Cheek seemed to be out of confidence and experience against a solid Belgium side. Jesse Lingard or Dele Alli also couldn't have made much of a difference, with Alli being a disappointment in this tournament. To resolve this issue, Harry Kane has had to drift around a lot.
Although De Bruyne was not used as a proper out-and-out number 10, his movement still sufficed. England lacked a player who could exploit the pocket of space between the defenders and midfielders, which the Manchester City man cleverly utilized and exploited with ease.
Published: Sun Jul 15, 2018 07:09 PM IST