Harry Kane set to start against Belgium

Harry Kane set to start against Belgium

Harry Kane set to start against Belgium

When the World Cup draw was first released, the final game of Group G between England and Belgium looked like a tantalising prospect - two European superpowers facing off in a match that would likely decide the group winners.

Belgium's chances of beating England to the top of Group G will be dented as a result of Lukaku's injury, although they can look forward to his swift return as their place in the round of 16 is already cemented.

Their battle in Kaliningrad follows the dramatic exit of Joachim Loew's 2014 winners, who finished rock bottom of their group after a 2-0 defeat to South Korea, the final humiliation after a campaign that never caught fire. We've not won a knockout game since 2006, so why we are starting to plot which would be a better venue for our semifinal is beyond me, really. Indeed Gareth Southgate will have seen enough from the way Senegal played against the Colombians to appreciate they are by no means unbeatable.

England is 8-1 to win the World Cup after opening at 25-1, while Belgium is a 13-2 World Cup favorite after opening at 15-1.

But in Belgium they face the world's third-ranked side, and a squad loaded with world-class talent such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.

"We're going to face tougher challenges in the next few games and at the moment we can't consider ourselves a top team until we start to beat one of those teams", said Southgate.

'I was in a situation in 1998 where a lot of players didn't get a chance to play.

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England put six past Panama in their last outing, while Belgian plundered five goals against Tunisia. Do you rest players with at least one and potentially four games to come between now and 15 July?

Roberto Martinez is expected to make changes for the game, so it remains to be seen if Vertonghen is the man to be tasked with keeping Kane in check.

"At the moment, he is still in the recovery phase and had a hard knock against Tunisia, but probably tomorrow is one day too early".

Unlike Southgate, the former Everton and Wigan manager said he was approaching Thursday's game with one eye firmly on the knockout rounds. "Thibaut Courtois has been at a very good level, and I think it is positive for him to carry on playing, so I can guarantee you he will start tomorrow".

The England boss called the game "an opportunity for players that need a match because they have not played a while".

The other side of the bracket, though, could be a bit easier for the runner-up in Group G thanks to Germany's collapse.

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