England finished second in Group G after falling to a 1-0 defeat against Belgium, though the result has in fact granted the Three Lions a potential World Cup knockout boost.
Gareth Southgate’s side headed into Thursday night’s Group G decider knowing that whoever finished top of the table would likely face a tougher potential route to the final.
England lay ahead of Belgium before the match by virtue of fair play rules, and both Southgate and Belgium boss Roberto Martinez rested key men with progress to the last 16 already secured.
With a more favourable knockout route awaiting the runners-up of Group G – a last-16 tie against Colombia followed by a quarter-final against either Sweden or Switzerland, as opposed to a game against Japan and then the victors of Mexico or Brazil – neither side looked like they particularly wanted to make their mark in a drab first half.
But with a number of squad players on both sides wanting to impress, former Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj made his mark with a superb opener, cleverly fooling Danny Rose and Fabian Delph with some swift footwork before bending a shot over Jordan Pickford and into the back of the net six minutes after the restart.
Marcus Rashford – starting in place of Harry Kane – missed a golden chance as Thibaut Courtois made a superb save with the England youngster through on goal, but the Three Lions were unable to find the goal which would have seen them top the group
However, Southgate and his players may not be too disheartened by the defeat given that a realistic route to the semi-finals appears to have opened up – providing they rediscover their scoring touch, of course.