SAINT PETERSBURG: Belgium achieved their best World Cup finish as goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard secured a 2-0 victory over England in Saturday´s third-place playoff in Saint Petersburg.
Meunier, who missed the semi-final loss to France due to suspension, scored after just four minutes before Hazard grabbed a late second as Belgium eclipsed the side that came fourth at the 1986 edition.
Belgium have now defeated England twice in a fortnight, having waited 82 years to beat them before winning 1-0 in their group stage encounter. "It´s all about the achievement, this is Belgium´s best finish at a World Cup. The players deserve that and they wanted to make the country proud," Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said.
Gareth Southgate´s men were forced to settle for England´s joint best performance at a World Cup abroad, matching that of the 1990 generation. "The lads couldn’t have given any more. Belgium are obviously a good team. I can’t fault the lads, we gave everything," said England captain Harry Kane.
The Tottenham striker remains the overwhelming favourite to win the Golden Boot with six goals, although he admitted his frustration at failing to find the net in England´s final three games. "It shows we had a good group stage and scored a lot of goals. Obviously I’m disappointed I couldn’t get a goal in the last few games," he said. "If I win it, it’ll be something I’ll be very proud of."
Paris Saint-Germain defender Meunier made a quick impression by firing Belgium in front following an attack started by Romelu Lukaku.
The Manchester United forward released Nacer Chadli down the left into space behind the England defence, and his cross was turned home by Meunier who stepped in front of a static Rose.
Jordan Pickford readjusted his body superbly to deny Kevin De Bruyne a second time, the Everton goalkeeper clawing away the ball after a sizeable deflection off Kieran Trippier.