England face Belgium in the World Cup third-place playoff on Saturday with the tournament’s top scorer Harry Kane eyeing the chance to add to his six goals in the meeting of the beaten semi-finalists.
Both teams will line up in Saint Petersburg with a sense of what might have been as France and Croatia prepare for Sunday’s final in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, but they will want to leave Russia on a high.
Tottenham’s Kane has the chance to become just the second England player after Gary Lineker in 1986 to win the Golden Boot, joining luminaries such as Brazil’s Ronaldo, Germany’s Gerd Mueller and Portugal’s Eusebio.
Kane, 24, came into the tournament after another prolific season for Spurs and started with a bang, scoring two goals in his first match against Tunisia and a hat-trick against Panama.
But he failed to find the net against Croatia in Wednesday’s semi-final as England agonisingly let a 1-0 lead slip to lose 2-1.
Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has four goals in Russia, with the French pair of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe both on three.
England manager Gareth Southgate admitted the challenge of preparing for the bronze medal game has been tough, saying he would make changes.
“It won’t be exactly the same starting XI but ideally we want to make as few changes as possible,” he said. “We have the chance to win a medal at the World Cup, which only one other English team has ever done.”
For Belgium, a third-place finish would represent their best-ever performance at a World Cup, after they finished fourth in Mexico in 1986.
Despite boasting the attacking prowess of Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, Roberto Martinez’s men fell short in their semi-final against France, losing 1-0.
Here’s a look at the team’s World Cup records...
Belgium v England - Head-to-head
|Goals scored by Belgium||26|
|Goals scored by England||70|
More facts and figures ahead of the third-place playoff
- The teams have already faced each other 22 times and England have much the better record with 15 victories to Belgium’s two, plus five draws. Their most recent engagement was in the group stage of this year’s global showpiece, which ended 1-0 in favour of Belgium following an Adnan Januzaj goal.
- The pair’s other previous engagements in the Fifa World Cup both went into extra time. In 1954 they fought out a 4-4 stalemate in Basel that remains the highest-scoring draw in the event’s history, together with Colombia-USSR in 1962. The next skirmish, in the Round of 16 in 1990, was only decided by a 119th-minute David Platt goal that clinched a 1-0 victory for the Three Lions.
- This is the second Play-Off for Third Place to involve Belgium, who lost 4-2 after extra time to France in 1986, in what remains the only third-place decider to have gone beyond regular time.
- England are also playing their second Play-Off for Third Place, after losing the 1990 consolation match 2-1 to Italy.
- This is the tenth all-European Third Place Play-Off, after those in 1934, 1958 and 1966, followed by every edition from 1982 to 1998 and the most recent one in 2006.
- Belgium and England are contesting the World Cup’s 19th Third Place Play-Off, a match that was not played in the 1930 and 1950 editions. A total of 71 goals have been scored in this fixture, averaging 3.9 per game. The highest-scoring play-off was France-Germany FR in 1958, which ended 6-3.
- The most frequent results in the third place playoff games are 3-2 and 2-1, which have each occurred four times, while the scoreline of 1-0 has been posted three times.
- The highest scorer in a Third Place Play-Off is France’s Just Fontaine, who bagged four goals against Germany FR in 1958.
- The earliest goal in World Cup history was scored in a third-place decider in 2002, when Turkey’s Hakan Sukur found the net against Korea Republic after just 11 seconds.
- Gareth Southgate played against Belgium in a friendly held in Sunderland in 1999, which England won 2-1.
With AFP inputs
All stats courtesy: Fifa.com