Adnan Januzaj serves a reminder of his Manchester United days and other talking points from Belgium's 1-0 win over England

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Januzaj showed why he was once so highly rated at Manchester United.

Belgium sealed their spot as Group G winners on Thursday with a 1-0 victory over England sealed by a wonderful strike from former Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj.

The win sets up a round of 16 tie against Japan for Belgium, while England will play Colombia after finishing as runners-up.

Here are three talking points from the game.

JANUZAJ SERVES REMINDER OF QUALITY

If it seems like a long time since Januzaj was the next big thing at United, that’s because it has been.

His emergence was one of the few highlights of David Moyes’ disastrous tenure at the club, but after that promising debut season in 2013-14, it was all downhill. He never quite made the grade in England, and a bizarre loan move to Borussia Dortmund – though understandable, given their propensity for developing young talents – didn’t work out. When he was finally let go by the club last summer, United fans who had once hailed Januzaj as a rising star shed few tears.

Those same fans have taken to Twitter wondering whether the club has a buy-back clause on the Real Sociedad winger (reportedly, there is one), after his wonder goal on Thursday.

Remarkably, though he made his international debut four years ago and was in Belgium’s squad for the 2014 World Cup, this was his first international goal. And as it came while United’s new next big thing, Marcus Rashford, was having a quiet display, it was perhaps even sweeter – though that thought may not have struck him.

In any case, seeing how it sealed top spot in the group, his goal may end up being a crucial one for Belgium’s World Cup chances.

Januzaj scored a picture-perfect goal.

Januzaj scored a picture-perfect goal.

RASHFORD AND ENGLAND’S STAND-INS FLUFF THEIR LINES

Gareth Southgate’s decision to rest several of his first-choice XI – only John Stones, Jordan Pickford, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek retained their spots from the side that brushed aside Panama so handsomely – offered an opportunity to the rest of this squad to show they should be starting for this England side.

But none of those players took their chance. In truth, most of the starters are entrenched, but Danny Rose, Eric Dier – captain for the night – and Rashford were among those who might have seen an opportunity.

Rashford will be one of the players most disappointed. There was talk after England’s opening game that he should come in for Raheem Sterling, with his superior finishing being cited as one of the reasons. So his miss when put through on goal – although it took a fine save from Thibaut Courtois in the Belgium goal – was a double whammy, denying England an equaliser and probably sealing the United striker’s short-term future as a substitute.

It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Rashford, who would have deserved his promotion ahead of England’s second game. Instead, he, like Rose and Dier, will have to be content with backup roles.

Rashford fluffed his lines and lost his chance at sealing a starting spot.

Rashford fluffed his lines and lost his chance at sealing a starting spot.

BELGIUM TAKE DESERVED TOP SPOT

Heading into this game there was talk that both sides may do their best not to top the group.

The reward for winning is a potential path to the final that will probably mean a quarterfinal against Brazil, and then a semifinal against whoever emerges amongst Argentina, France, Uruguay, and Portugal. Even if coming in second would to a tougher round of 16 matchup – Colombia rather than Japan – the quarterfinal would be against either Switzerland or Sweden, an easier prospect than Brazil.

The truth is there are no easy games in the knockouts, and in any case, it would be no surprise if England lost to Colombia and thus never benefitted from the supposed easy path.

Belgium were the best side in the group – if only narrowly – and top spot is just reward. If they beat Japan and Brazil beat Mexico to set up a blockbuster quarterfinal tie, well, that’s just part of being at the World Cup.

No side is going to win it without beating at least one or two strong sides, and Belgium are now supposed to be considered legitimate contenders. And legitimate contenders don’t worry about who they’re going to face on their path to victory.

Top spot is a well-earned reward for Belgium.

Top spot is a well-earned reward for Belgium.

Most popular

Japan pip Senegal to sneak into World Cup last 16 on fair play record

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Japan coach Akira Nishino defended his negative tactics as his side qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup on their superior fair play record on Thursday, despite being defeated 1-0 by Poland.

On a hot afternoon that witnessed quite a lot twists, Japan somehow managed to secure a place in the knockout stages of the tournament where they will meet Belgium, thanks to Colombia defender Yerry Mina‘s goal in Samara and because they received two yellow cards fewer than Senegal.

Nishino’s instructions for his team were to take the 1-0 defeat and hang in there, once news of Mina’s 74th-minute goal for Colombia came through.

Nishino was happy to see his team over the line, and praised his players for listening to his negative orders.

“The players listened to me and were loyal and determined to keep the status quo,” Nishino said.

“It was just the situation that forced me to make the risky call and we decided not to go on the offence and rely on the other match.

senegal

“I’m not too happy about this but the World Cup is such that these things happen and we went through so it was perhaps the right decision.”

Japan have reached the knockout stage for the third time in their history but when Jan Bednarek scored in the 59th minute, his first international goal for the Polish, the scoreline between Colombia and Senegal was at 0-0, meaning Nishino’s team, also the last one left representing Asia, were heading home.

But Mina’s goal thickened the plot. Suddenly Colombia would top Group H and Japan were ahead of Senegal despite the same points, goal difference and goals scored – because of Senegal’s poorer fair play record in the tournament.

Nishino revealed that he brought on midfielder Makoto Hasebe for striker Yoshinori Muto in the 82nd minute in order to give negative orders to his teammates – to stop trying to score and get forward and not to commit any fouls.

“I did tell Hasebe to tell the team to stay put (at 1-0), not to concede any yellow cards and go to a defensive 4-1-4-1,” Nishino said.

Most popular

England toil as brilliant Adnan Januzaj strike earns Belgium 1-0 win and top spot in World Cup Group G

Simon Peach 29/06/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Gary Cahill takes a tumble against Belgium

Adnan Januzaj’s stunning goal secured a much-changed Belgium side a 1-0 win over England‘s second string on Thursday evening and meant Gareth Southgate‘s men will face Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup.

What looked like being one of the ties of the group stage instead became a rather strange encounter given the talk about the most favourable knockout route, including suggestions that finishing runners-up may be preferable.

Southgate dismissed that before seeing his team suffer their first defeat in a year, with Januzaj’s superb effort six minutes into the second half securing a narrow victory which earned Belgium top spot in Group G and a last-16 tie against Japan.

The Three Lions will be hoping to win their first knockout match since 2006 in Moscow next Tuesday, when widespread changes are again on the cards after their squad players struggled against Roberto Martinez’s reserves.

Belgium made nine changes and England eight for the pool decider in Kaliningrad, where the teams were booed off after a tepid first half in which Gary Cahill and Trent Alexander-Arnold both cleared off the line.

Southgate’s men would have progressed as group winners through fair play had the scores remained level, but former Manchester United man Januzaj’s moment of magic turned the game in Belgium’s favour.

Marcus Rashford missed England's best chance.

Marcus Rashford missed England’s best chance.

Marcus Rashford and substitute Danny Welbeck went closest to an equaliser on a night when Belgium’s second ever win in this fixture left England plotting their route to Moscow.

If England are to overcome Colombia next week, they will need to play far better than they did at the compact Kaliningrad Stadium.

In truth, neither side impressed once an open start tapered off.

Jamie Vardy saw an early driven cross unconvincingly stopped by Thibaut Courtois, before Jordan Pickford denied Youri Tielemans from distance.

It was a Hollywood save but at least it was a stop, whereas minutes later Cahill had to come to the Everton goalkeeper’s rescue to clear off the line after Michy Batshuayi’s attempt somehow squirmed through.

Cahill and Vardy headed wide for England as the tempo slowed, with Alexander-Arnold, making his second England appearance, hacking clear after Marouane Fellaini got a shot away that looked bound for the bottom corner.

There was not much else to talk about in a meek half that saw Belgium race ahead in the ill-discipline stakes, with Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker booked for fouls on Danny Rose.

And while Alexander-Arnold went close with a cross-shot and Ruben Loftus-Cheek headed wide, the locals had become restless.

Having whistled prolonged spells of purposeless Belgian possession, it was little surprise to hear the half-time whistle greeted by boos.

John Stones, pictured with a bandaged calf, was replaced by Harry Maguire for the second period, which was six minutes old when the neutrals finally had something to shout about.

Many English fans will not have seen Januzaj since slipping out of the Premier League as a Sunderland player, but he showed a flash of the outstanding skill that had once excited Manchester United supporters following superb quick feet with a fine finish that outfoxed Rose.

It saw Belgium take control of a match that England struggled to come back into.

Questions over Vardy and Rashford’s chemistry grew as they toiled, only once truly connecting well as the Leicester striker put the United forward through.

Courtois’ slight touch helped take Rashford’s shot wide and substitute Welbeck, the last outfield player to represent England at this World Cup, was denied by a Fellaini block.

That was the last real England threat as Belgium ended the night on top.

Late change Dries Mertens’ first-time strike forced a great save from Pickford and Fellaini smashed into the side-netting in stoppage time.

Most popular

Related Tags