Saturday 14 July 2018, 10:46

Hazard, Meunier bag bronze for Belgium

  • Meunier, Hazard strike to earn first World Cup medal

  • Podium spot marks Belgium's best-ever placing

  • England equal fourth they claimed at Italy 1990

Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard struck at either end of their Play-off for Third Place with England to secure bronze at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ - their best-ever performance at the global finals.

Belgium began superbly. Early pressure quickly turned into an early goal, with Meunier nipping in behind Danny Rose to tuck Nacer Chadli's cross past Jordan Pickford. Dominant and lively, they looked set to extend that lead until England regained their composure, dulling the incisive swipes of the Belgians' passing as the half wore on.

Gareth Southgate's side gritted their teeth and began to dominate possession either side of half-time, probing for openings in the final third. While these were not plentiful, they looked the more likely to score, though the spectre of a Belgian counter loomed throughout.

Eric Dier saw his cute, dinked effort hooked off the line by Toby Alderweireld in their best opportunity of the day, with Hazard sealing bronze on the break. Kevin De Bruyne slipped him in superbly and the final result was never in doubt as the Belgium captain tucked away assuredly.

Team reporter analysis Simon Massart with Belgium [Follow: Twitter | Facebook] Belgium did not have to push too hard to make the difference thanks to an early goal and some collective discipline. Their stars had their moments but they failed to take full advantage of the spaces left by the Three Lions. Belgium displayed a strong will to finish third for the first time in their history and their desire was rewarded with a prestigious second win in two matches over England in Russia.

Laure James with England [Follow: Twitter | Facebook] Ultimately, as with the semi-final defeat by Croatia, England's need to score more goals from open play re-surfaced. The Three Lions battled to create chances and the half-time introductions for Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard injected a greater threat going forward, yet near-misses from Harry Maguire, Harry Kane and Eric Dier will be rued. Though England dominated possession, the devastating nature of Belgium's counter-attacking meant their spine was able to carve through Gareth Southgate's side all too easily.

Budweiser Man of the Match Often spear-heading the charge forward on the break, Eden Hazard, capped off a typically menacing display with a goal to add a captain's seal on what is a historic campaign for the Red Devils.

The stat 10 - Thomas Meunier's goal saw Belgium's tenth name adorn the scoresheet in Russia. No other team has had more, equalling France in 1982 and Italy in 2006.

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