Dan’s World Cup Diary – Will England & Belgium play reserves or play to win?

Roberto Martinez has been hinting that he won’t be fielding his strongest XI this evening, while Gareth Southgate is keeping his cards closer to his chest. It makes sense not to risk anyone with a small injury or a yellow card away from missing the knock out stages. Yet the manager’s motives might be more transparent then that. The former Everton boss knows he’s not everyone’s cup of tea back in Brussels. The perception of him seems to be of a man who has great footballing values. He will insist on an attacking style which will see him win the matches he should win but lacks the tactical genius to take them to the next step.

In many ways Belgium and England are very alike. Both are known for underachieving with their ‘golden generations’. Like England’s team from 2002-2010 could never get that marquee win at a major tournament, until Hazard and Co can do that, you will always question if mentally they can take progress to a major final. So the final fixture of the group is an ideal opportunity. The Spaniard can prove a point to his adopted nation by proving he can win a ‘big game’. But to be honest, Belgium has not beaten anyone of note and with both sides having already qualified I doubt that they will risk any top players. This game has got a draw written all over it and at 21/10 I am determined to use my bonus from William Hill Football to back the draw and go further and have a tenner on 0-0 Final Score. May as well save your big guns for bigger tests ahead, while we make some money!

The same applies for the 3 Lions. As much praise we have received In the last two weeks, we have only won against opposition we should be winning against. If we failed to get another result in Russia, it would be another campaign where we coped with the minnows before being humbled by the first half-decent side we encounter. In a sense though, that’s currently where we stand in the game, that’s how far we have fallen.

Belgium are different. They have title winners, individuals with big game experience, talent who on their day can claim to be some of the best in the universe. They have so many World class names at the same time that it’s unprecedented. This has never happened and probably never will again for a country where football is not their top sport. That’s why there’s a sense of now or never. If they don’t become champions now they never will. Which is why I believe Martinez is protecting himself by resting his key men. Instead of being brave and proving his doubters wrong the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

If his strongest side lost to England’s it would confirm what his critics have been saying, affecting confidence going into the last 16. If England instead only beat a reserve team then he can shrug his shoulders and say, ‘Oh well’.

What do you think Gooners. Should England and Belgium rest players this week or keep their winning runs going?


  1. gotanidea says:

    They might play their second fiddle, but they would still want to be the first in their group, to avoid a stronger opponent in the next round

    Hope to see Welbeck later

    1. Declan says:

      The thing is, if England finish second in this group, the route to the final looks easier. The BBC sport site shows all the permutations, very interesting. England v Belgium could be a stand off with both teams wanting to lose?.

      1. nassan says:

        You can live the English hype, remember they have only played a certain panama and Tunisia…the reality will strike

        1. GB says:

          I’m certainly not believing the hype nassan, because as you say, we have not played anyone decent yet and I think that Belgium 1st team would win easily. My money is on Croatia, Uraguay or Mexico.

          1. Declan says:

            And I’m an Irish Gooner but certainly not thick enough to think England will win it ?

          2. snowden says:

            Nice one 🙂 If you have a four leaf clover to spare perhaps you could email it to the England team.

          3. jon fox says:

            Whereas OTHER Irish people are? That falsehood is what your post implies. I am sure you did not mean to phrase it that unfortunate way. At least, I hope not! It could also be taken to mean that only English people are “thick enough to think so”. I hope you did not mean THAT either.

          4. sanmi.marvellous says:

            England is one of the most overrated teams in the world.

      2. gotanidea says:

        Is it? Which team will they face in the next round, if they finish as the second in their group?

        1. Declan says:

          Whether England win the group or come second, they will play Columbia, Senegal or Japan but my point was more about the possibilities of who England play after that, if they progress.
          As I said, it is easier to look at the BBC sport site which shows the permutations very clearly.

          1. Joshua Bryant says:

            Declan is correct. Our route looks much easier if we finish second. The only top team (on paper) we would meet would be Spain and that wont be until the Semis. Worth looking at it on BBC.

  2. Simon Williams says:

    I think have to play for the win.

    We’ve not yet played a competitive WC match – Belgium will be best test yet. If we can win – give us extra confidence for further matches.

    If lose – we can analyse mistakes and improve for next match without it hurting us

  3. Sue says:

    Totally OT…. Just saw an article saying the Torreira deal may be off…. ? nooooooo!!!!

    1. Declan says:

      Oh no, I really hope you’re wrong ☹️?

  4. skies says:

    I love how England is playing in this WC, they are more fluent than some top teams. I really wish them to play more, even today they are playing better than Belgium although both of them have second fiddle teams. Ps- I am not an English.

  5. Sue says:

    Ian Wright’s shirts are wild! ?

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