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Southgate urges England to play Belgium without fear

28 June 2018

I don't think it (Germany's exit) has any bearing on us.

The only issue at stake for England against Belgium is whether they finish first or second in Group G. Finishing as runners-up arguably opens up a clearer path to the final - missing France/Argentina and Portugal - but with England now ahead of the Belgians on goal difference, Southgate insists his players will simply go out and try to win the game.

Wednesday was the two-year anniversary of the Euro 2016 humiliation against Iceland - a time when Southgate could never have imagined leading his country into this World Cup.

We will therefore rely on Lukaku, signed for £75 million last summer, to build on his 27-goal debut season and fire us into title contention.

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"It's important we finish top", he said.

Martinez did reveal that goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois would play against England.

Schmeichel said he believed Die Mannschaft were "lucky" to get three points against Sweden, and that a moment of brilliance from Toni Kroos - a 95th-minute free kick to seal a come from behind 2-1 win - presented them with a "lifeline".

Martínez has taken the view that this is a time to rest elite players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, whereas Southgate has already made it clear he will make changes, with Eric Dier, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones and Trent Alexander-Arnold all likely to be involved for the first time in the tournament.

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Southgate wants to see another high level of performance on Thursday, when Dele Alli could return to the side after missing out against Panama with a thigh strain.

It nearly seems to have been forgotten that before England should start thinking about the quarter-finals they will have a tie in either Moscow or Rostov against one of the teams from Group H. They will have a clearer idea by the time they kick off against Belgium but, as Southgate spoke, it could be one of Japan, Senegal or Colombia.

Martinez has three players who are one booking away from a suspension, and injury concerns over forwards Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. "We're just pleased we're in the next round". That's his decision, I guess, but obviously I want to play.

"We want to win the game, that would mean we would top the group, and we play who we play in the next round", Southgate added.

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Southgate urges England to play Belgium without fear