By Shebby Singh | WORLD CUP 2018 #5
Third place Preview: Belgium v England
It is not always about one player but one part missing can make a wheel wobble. While the Belgians may point to France being defensive minded in their semifinal loss, quite perhaps its time to ponder on how the Red Devils lost their fangs.
Up until the semifinals, the Belgians looked smooth and sleek and Brazil were defeated too! It was said Roberto Martinez had planned his tactics well.
Then it happened! A tactical mess to be exact. It may have gone under the radar but Thomas Meunier had been having an outstanding tournament as right wingback. All the attention had been on Yannick Carrasco being the weak link at left wingback.
With Meunier suspended for the France game, Nacer Chadli was given a start and who was at left wingback instead of Carrasco?
Take your pick? Was it Kevin de Bruyne? Or Eden Hazard? It certainly was not Mousa Dembele or Axel Witsel. Perhaps it was Marouane Fellaini?
It was the 80th minute when Fellaini was taken off with Yannick Carrasco coming on at left wingback that Belgium realised they had been so unbalanced. There had been no cut or thrust from the flanks and Belgium had turned up in Russia without a very good second choice right wingback.
His name and profile may never be as big as Hazard, de Bruyne or Kompany, but Thomas Meunier will be remembered for his absence that caused Belgium to lose balance.
One part missing and Belgium got stuck in a rut. Now to change a bit of history, fourth was in 1986 and can Belgium go one better?
It is really remarkable on how England managed to reach the semifinals always playing with ten men. The Croatians did have to negotiate extra time and penalties twice before they faced England. The English may not have realised but playing five games on the trot with ten can be energy zapping.
If the Croatians were tired, the English were knackered! Has anyone seen Raheem Sterling?
History is only one game away for Belgium. A third place finish for England will be a measure of progress. Both teams had their reserves out in the group stage match but this time we expect more pride and determination.
[Serbegeth Singh is a former Malaysian international footballer and current football analyst. For the duration of the World Cup 2018, he will share his thoughts at Asia Samachar on Mondays, looking back at the action in Russia over the week]
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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