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Talking Points: Has Roberto Martinez been under-utilizing Kevin de Bruyne?

Written by: Abhranil Roy


The Red Devils achieved their best ever World Cup finish as the Three Lions slumped to a second straight defeat.

The Red Devils got the better of the Three Lions in the third-place playoff and ended the tournament on a positive note. Thomas Meunier finished off Nacer Chadli’s superb cross from close range inside four minutes to kick-off the match on a high. This was also the earliest goal Belgium have ever scored in a World Cup match and coincidentally, it was also the earliest England have ever conceded at the tournament. However, England crawled it’s way back into the game and created a couple of chances in an otherwise cagey first half.

Harry Kane is the favorite to end up with the Golden Boot, but he looked out of sorts yet again today and misfired from a couple of half-chances. The English skipper’s dip in form has been pointed as a critical reason behind England’s semi-final exit and it’s fair to say, he couldn’t convince people with his performance today either.

Eden Hazard secured the Bronze medal for his country in the 82nd minute, by calmly finishing off a Kevin De Bruyne pass. Those two have had a successful campaign and a team built around the pair can push for further challenges in the future. Romelu Lukaku also had the opportunity to level up with Kane’s goal tally, but the Belgian forward disappointed as well.

Watch: Belgium 2-0 England highlights

Here are five things that we learned from the game.

5. Belgium have a talented core of players and the Red Devils can dream about better campaigns

Led by Hazard and Lukaku upfront with De Bruyne organizing things in the middle as well as Dedryck Boyata, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen providing defensive solidity, the Belgians are strong contenders for the next Euros, which are to be held in a couple of years.

Building a team around these players and improving on their transitions will be the key and Roberto Martinez isn’t the right man to lead them. Under a more tactically adept manager, this squad is capable of playing extremely well and challenging for major titles.

4. Harry Kane has looked leggy in the knockout stages and should have been rested well

The issue with handing Kane the captaincy has come to the fore with him being untouchable. Gareth Southgate’s adamance in not resting his most important player has been blamed as a primary reason behind England’s exit, as Kane has looked extremely off colour form after the group stages and in desperate need of rest. With a fitter Kane, England could have even gone all the way.

3. Romelu Lukaku has been a revelation at the tournament, but he still needs to work on his game in order to become truly elite

After a rather underwhelming season with Manchester United, where the Belgian forward failed to live up to expectations, the World Cup has acted as a major catalyst in Lukaku’s development. The Red Devils have Thierry Henry as their assistant manager and his positive work is visible on Lukaku, who has been a tournament standout.


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Lukaku has combined well with his teammates, shown great intelligence in disrupting defensive lines and has been quite clinical upfront. However, he still needs to work on his heavy first touches which prevented him from scoring at least twice today. He could’ve easily overtaken Kane in the Golden Boot race from the chances that De Bruyne created for him and it’s an area of his game he needs to improve at in order to become an elite #9.

2. England’s over-reliance on scoring from set-pieces has worked against them

Of the 12 goals that England scored at this year’s World Cup, eight have been from set-pieces. Whilst the threat from deadball situations has been a positive for them, their inability to create goals from open play has been exposed in the knockout rounds and this was also evident in the previous two games against Croatia and Belgium.

Southgate needs to work on this aspect of his side's play, if he wants to continue the wonderful turnaround he has started in English football.

1. Kevin De Bruyne needs to be played as a trequartista to get the best out of him

De Bruyne is a sensational midfielder and he has been his sides’ primary creator for a few seasons now. He is beyond superlatives when he is in his element and it is imperative that the Belgian management uses him well.

Martinez has been guilty of underutilizing the Manchester City midfielder by playing him in deeper areas, where his attacking threat and chance creating abilities are taken out of the equation for the sake of defensive cover.

Published: Sun Jul 15, 2018 01:38 AM IST


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