Belgium v England: Three Lions can strike first blow

England's Kieran Trippier
England have come out of the blocks fast in this World Cup, says Dave
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Goals are always on the menu in third-place play-off games and England can find an early one against Belgium on Saturday, says Dave Tindall...

"England have been much better at getting off the mark early. They netted after 11 minutes against Tunisia, after just eight v Panama, after 30 against Sweden and after only five minutes against Croatia."

1pt England to score the first goal up to and including the 24th minute @ 11/4 (Sportsbook)

Belgium v England
Saturday, 15:00
Live on ITV

Belgium will feel hard done by

It wasn't to be for Belgium's Golden Generation in this World Cup although their semi-final against France could have gone either way.

Firing a blank in the last four was out of character for Belgium as they're this World Cup's leading scorers with 14 goals in six games but much of that was down to the strong French defence and the way N'Golo Kante and and Paul Pogba offered discipline in midfield.

The first goal - a headed corner - was crucial and France were able to protect it probably better than any other side in the tournament.

A third place play-off should be a much less intense affair and, if it's an open game, that's when Belgium thrive.

Much, of course, will depend on the side Roberto Martinez sends out. The big guns seeking to end on a high note or the reserve side which beat England 1-0 in the final group game.

Different agony for England

England will be devastated too having been 22 minutes away from playing in a World Cup final. But, in contrast to Belgium, it's more the frustration of being so close rather than thinking that they deserved to go through.

Croatia were the better team on the night in Moscow and, in truth, England were the fourth best side on show in the semi-finals despite a bright first half.

Not that they can't win here and claim a bronze medal of course.

England have had a memorable journey in this World Cup, winning a penalty shootout at last and acquiring a reputation as the set-piece kings.

There are some tired legs in the camp so it's a fair guess that, for the second time in this World Cup, Southgate will give his squad members a run-out against Belgium.

A mental battle

Belgium won the first meeting and are [2.26] to take victory again. England are [3.35] and The Draw [3.8].

I've always thought a key to betting on this game was assessing motivation levels and then opposing the team who least wanted to be there.

Take Brazil last time. They'd just been humiliated 7-1 in the semis against Germany. They probably all wanted to go into hiding. Third-place play-off: Brazil 0-3 Netherlands.

Back in 2002, co-hosts South Korea were devastated to miss out on the final after epic, if controversial, wins over Italy and Spain. A nation was distraught when they lost to Germany. Turkey, meanwhile, were delighted to have made the semis and felt no shame in losing in the last four to eventual winners Brazil.

Turkey seemed less unhappy to be there. Result: South Korea 2-3 Turkey

Another angle to take is which side played their semi-final first. The losers of the opening semi will have had longer to reflect, will be sick of rattling around their hotel and will generally have lost more momentum.

That possibly plays out, with four of the last five third-place games won by the team who played the second semi-final.

This time? Belgium may have both more Cabin Fever and regret than England although you can argue it differently.

History says goals

With concentration levels reduced and squad players drafted in, goals have tended to flow in these third-place games.

The goal make-ups stretching back to 1978: 3, 5, 4, 5, 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 3.

Over 2.5 has landed in the last 10 so [1.67] is hard to argue with in that sense. Unders is [2.48].

England can strike early

The general feeling of malaise hanging over teams is interesting as it often leaves one side vulnerable to an early goal.

Brazil conceded after just three minutes against the Netherlands in 2014 while South Korea let one in against Turkey after just 11 seconds!

It's quite a trend and we've seen a goal inside 20 minutes in seven of the last nine.

Let's think this through then. Of the two sides, England have been much better at getting off the mark early.

They netted after 11 minutes against Tunisia, after just eight v Panama after 30 against Sweden and after only five minutes against Croatia.

Therefore, put it together and head to the Sportbook to back England to score the first goal up to and including the 24th minute at 11/4.

I'll also play the England to score first and fail to win market at 7/2.

That would have landed in two of their three matches in the knockout phase (v Colombia and Croatia) and taps into the idea that they start fast but run out of gas.

As a final punt to go along with this line of thinking it could be worth throwing a dart on Belgium trailing at half-time before they snap out of it, show their extra class and go on to win as England tire.

With goals expected, there's obviously more chance of the minimum of three which are needed for this to have a chance. The England/Belgium Half Time/Full Time is [28.0].

Who gets the goals is hard to call until we see starting line-ups but Harry Kane (six) will want to protect the Golden Boot while Romelu Lukaku (four) will surely want a shot at catching him.

Lukaku is 7/1 to score 2 or more.

Dave Tindall's World Cup P/L

Staked: 23pts
Returned: 30pts
P/L: +7pts

Key Opta Stats for Belgium v England

England and Belgium meet for the second time at the 2018 World Cup, having also met at the group stage – Belgium won 1-0. Belgium are [2.26] to win again.

Before losing 1-0 to Belgium at this year’s World Cup, England had lost just one of their previous 21 meetings with them (W15 D5). England are [3.35] to win.

Belgium have played in this fixture once before, finishing fourth in 1986 after losing 4-2 against France. Over 3.5 goals is [2.64].

Belgium have lost just two of their 26 matches under Roberto Martinez – his first in charge in September 2016 (0-2 vs Spain) and his most recent (0-1 vs France in the semi-final). You can back them to avoid defeat at [1.42] in the Double Chance market.

England had 15 shots on target in their first two 2018 World Cup matches against Tunisia (8) and Panama (7) but have had just eight in their four games since – exactly two in each match. Under 2.5 goals is [2.48].

England’s only other match in a World Cup third-place play-off match was at the 1990 World Cup – they faced Italy and lost 2-1. Over 2.5 goals is [1.66].

Striker Romelu Lukaku has scored 23 goals in his 23 appearances under Roberto Martinez for Belgium, though he’s not scored in any of his last three. He’s never gone four games without a goal for the national side since the Spaniard has been in charge. Lukaku is [2.2] to score.

Harry Kane has had just one shot on target in his last three World Cup matches – his penalty goal against Colombia in the Last 16. Kane hasn’t had a shot on target in his last four hours and 33 minutes of action at the World Cup. Belgium are [4.5] to win to nil.

England’s defeat to Croatia in their last match was their 100th competitive defeat – each of their last six competitive defeats have been at major tournaments (five at the World Cup, one at the European Championships). Belgium are [1.68] in the Draw No Bet market.

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