Striker set to sit out England v Belgium clash

Gary Cahill

Gary Cahill

The reality is we put ourselves in this situation we wanted to qualify and we have done that.There are players with yellow cards and I don't think it would be professional for us to put those players in a risk to miss the knockout phase.

England and Belgium have both already punched their tickets to the knockout round of the 2018 World Cup, but that doesn't mean that their matchup on Thursday will be without effect. "As team mates we know each other better than other opposition".

"They have earned the right to start in a World Cup, and I believe we are going to be as good as the contribution of the 23 players, so tomorrow is a good opportunity for us as a team".

England had quite a torrid time against Tunisia and needed a late injury-time victor from Kane to ensure that they didn't share points. England now sits on top, with only one yellow card versus Belgium's three bookings. Players have been in very demanding games. "There are players who have been in very demanding games so it´s very important for us to protect and give every player the best opportunity to be in the best condition in the knockout games".

Southgate has already insisted that England will go into the match with the intention of winning the game, though Roberto Martinez is expected to make wholesale changes to his Belgium starting XI and is happy to finish second.

"My inherent nature is that I like people to feel included and to be part of what we're doing, and they all are", Southgate said, having watched from the bench in 2002. A draw will see them finish second, unless England accrue more yellows.

"Equally, he is the captain and he knows he will be judged on how far we go as a team".

Something else on the line tomorrow will be pride, or perhaps the moral high ground.

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Southgate appears to be gesturing towards saying yes.

Japan, on four points alongside Senegal, take on Poland in Volgograd while the African team play Colombia, who have three points, in Samara.

How both sides approach the match will be a good indicator of their respective philosophies and team culture.

"But to be involved in a World Cup is something you work all your life to get to".

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Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Toby Alderweireld are among the Belgium players who are with Premier League clubs. And both players will be keen to increase their tally tomorrow.

The players' performance will also be a factor in who wins the golden ball (the tournament's best player).

Both sides have 100 per cent records in the competition, and Martinez voiced his admiration for England.

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