England vs Belgium - England boss seeking win against Belgium after Germany’s ‘surprise’ exit



Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by PA

England vs Belgium - England boss seeking win against Belgium after Germany’s ‘surprise’ exit

England boss Gareth Southgate insists Germany’s shock World Cup exit underlines why he will not be attempting to plot an easier route against Belgium on Thursday.

The anticipation for the Kaliningrad clash has tapered off somewhat after the Three Lions’ 6-1 win over Panama on Sunday ensured their progress to the last-16, alongside the Red Devils, with a game to spare.

The managers will make changes for the Group G encounter in a bid to keep key men fresh, despite the fact England and Belgium are currently level in terms of points, goal difference and goals scored.

Roberto Martinez’s side reportedly favour finishing runners-up given the seemingly preferable route to the final, but there is no such talk from Southgate.

“We think that we need to keep winning football matches,” he said when asked about his approach, two years to the day since the humiliating Euro 2016 exit to Iceland.

“We want to breed a mentality that everybody in our squad wants to constantly win.

“We’ve not won a knockout game since 2006. Why we are starting to plot which would be a better venue for our semi-final is beyond me, really.

“We have no idea who, when or where we will play in the next round, but we’re pleased that we’re in the next round.

“But, first and foremost, I think it’s really important that we’re building a team that I think everybody at home can see are passionate to play for England, want to win every time they go out, and are improving all the time.

“I think we’ll see that again tomorrow and I am really looking forward to seeing us play again.”

Watching their side again is not something Germany fans will be able to do this summer after the reigning champions were dumped out by South Korea.

“Of course I’m surprised,” Southgate said moments after their exit was confirmed. “I was here last summer for the Confederations Cup and they brought a young team, they also won the Under-21 finals.

“But in this tournament I think they’ve been ahead for about a minute and a half of their three matches.

“It’s been unusual to see them struggle as much as they have, but the level of all the teams is strong.”

Southgate believes the Germany result shows that “anyone is vulnerable on any given day” as England look to win all three World Cup group games for just the second time.

Asked if the Germany result underlines the madness of attempting to plot their own route, Southgate said: “Yeah, you can’t take anything for granted. The margins are so fine within the matches.”

Belgium manager Martinez claims victory is not “a priority” now that both sides have booked their place in the last 16.

There are suggestions they prefer the travel arrangements associated with the runners-up spot, which would allow extra recovery time and closer proximity to their Moscow training base, and Martinez did little to dispel the notion at his eve of match address.

“At the moment we are qualified and that was the priority we were chasing,” he said. “Now we need to look at individual players. We want to perform well but the priority is not to win, that’s the reality of the situation.

“If we win, great, but I don’t think winning is the priority. It’s a celebration game.”

Instead of chasing three points – and the statement that would come with them – the former Everton and Wigan boss is prioritising the conditioning of his squad.

Some will be sitting out on fitness grounds, four-goal striker Romelu Lukaku among them, those who have picked up one yellow card and are one away from a caution will be absent and several who have yet to feature will get the chance to impress.

There could be as many as 10 changes, with only goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois certain to keep his place.

Yet rather than weakening his XI to engineer a preferred path to the final, the Spaniard sees his selection as a process of fine-tuning future options for the business end of the tournament.

“At the final whistle I want the players to have had a good performance and for everyone to have a better opportunity to contribute to the team for the knockout stage,” he said.

“I meant it when I arrived in Moscow and said I believed in every player in the squad. It would be stupid of me not to believe that now.”

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