Belgium's Roberto Martinez 'delighted' with tougher path to World Cup final

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford

England and Belgium battle it out for top spot in their group on Thursday as the remaining teams at the World Cup digest Germany´s astonishing exit from the tournament in Russian Federation.

It led to an unreal atmosphere and a game that sometimes resembled a battle no-one wanted to win, summed by the sound of Belgium supporters cheering yellow cards, knowing their inferior disciplinary record could see them fail to win the group and plot a potentially easier route around Russian Federation.

Japan edged through in Group H, becoming the first team ever to progress courtesy of the Fair Play rule.

Vertonghen is of the opinion that it will be a special match between two top quality sides who have looked solid in the opening stages of the World Cup.

England ended up with the potentially more hard match in the round of 16, even though the country's national team hasn't won a knockout-stage game at any tournament since 2006. The Red Devils are unbeaten in their previous 11 World Cup Group matches.

"That's normally one of the stories that's always written about every hotel we stay at, there's always something close-by to distract us", Southgate said.

'So, everybody knows that the most important game is the knockout game'.

"I am amused when people are plotting the route right through to where we would rather stay in for the semifinal".

Martinez made nine changes, with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne among those left out.

Captain Harry Kane is the top goalscorer at the World Cup with five goals so far and the Tottenham talisman is likely to start against Belgium.

The 1-0 win for Roberto Martinez's much-changed team in Kaliningrad earns a second-round tie against Japan while England have a trickier-looking match against Colombia.

"I think about the line-up before the match and standing side-by-side with guys who I have played 200 games with at Spurs".

"I don't think you can plan the ideal scenario", Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said. That would mean we top the group and then we can move forward.

The fact second place in the group was no disaster seemed to be a big factor in both coaches' team selection with their places in the last 16 already secured.

"Now we need to look into our individual players".

There is, though, something presumptuous about such talk and Colombia, a team with plenty of talent, certainly won't appreciate being considered part of an "easier path" to the quarter-finals. Gary Cahill and Marcus Rashford may get their first start of this World Cup.

Perhaps not for the reasons we would like but the moment of the day comes from Japan, where the final few minutes of their defeat to Poland was played at a snail's pace, at best.

Aliou Cisse´s Senegal will attempt to succeed where the rest of their continental rivals failed, with Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia all out.

England will face Colombia in the last-16 stage on Tuesday night and Gareth Southgate insists he has some tough decisions to make.

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