Belgium and England will meet in the World Cup playoff for third place on Saturday with opposing strikers Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane vying for the tournament’s Golden Boot.
Just as Belgium and England’s dead-rubber game in the group stage carried a sense of unimportance, so third-place playoffs can be sterile affairs, with both teams still coming down from having missed out on a place in the final.
But England’s Kane is favoured to take home the Golden Boot prize for the top scorer in Russia after scoring six goals so far.
Belgium’s Lukaku has four goals, with French pair Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, who play in tomorrow night’s final, on three.
Both Kane and Lukaku were rested for that pedestrian final group game in Kaliningrad.
It was dubbed the game “no one wanted to win”, with coaches Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate well aware the winning team would top Group G and set up a possible quarter-final meeting with Brazil.
Belgium won the match with a second-half goal from Adnan Januzaj. Sure enough, after beating Japan in the last 16, they faced five-time tournament winners Brazil.
They beat them 2-1 in Kazan, only to then lose their semi-final 1-0 against France.
“I’d rather lose with this Belgium than win with that France,” Eden Hazard said of the semi-final defeat. Teammate Thibaut Courtois went further, telling Belgian newspaper i: “France played anti-football.”
But the French are in tomorrow’s final and Belgium must contest third spot with England.