England coach Gareth Southgate will not make wholesale changes to his team when England play Belgium in Saturday’s third place play-off at the 2018 World Cup. The game for the third and fourth places has been seen at times as unnecessary and unpopular with teams who have suffered the disappointment of losing their semi-finals and missing out on a place in the final, but speaking to reporters on Friday, Southgate insisted that England would take the game seriously, reports Efe. “It’s obviously been a couple of really difficult days for us, but I’ve got to say the players are incredible,” said Southgate, who said England would not relax against Belgium as they look to seal their second-best finish ever in the World Cup.
“We owe it as much to ourselves as to the nation that we finish the tournament well,” he said. Southgate made nine changes in England’s 0-1 loss to Belgium in their last Group G game when both teams were already assured of a place in the last 16. But despite having less time to recover and prepare for Saturday’s game than Belgium, the coach won’t be repeating that tactic.
“Everybody wants to play but it won’t be exactly the same starting XI (as against Croatia on Wednesday). We want to make as few changes as possible,” he commented.
The England coach added that Belgium would also want to end their World Cup on a high note.
“Belgium have had an exceptional tournament … They will want to finish well but so will we. It’ll be a good test for us and we haven’t been able to beat these top teams yet,” he said.
He added that England would move into the top-10 in the FIFA rankings after the World Cup, but still needed to improve if they want to compete with the best sides in the world on a regular basis.
Southgate was optimistic that the performance in Russia has brought the team and supporters closer together.
“The public have probably enjoyed the way that we’ve played, they’ve got to know the players a little bit better, I think. I feel there will be an affinity there,” concluded Southgate.