Belgium took home its first ever medals at the World Cup with a convincing 2-0 win over former champions England. The victory was Belgium’s second win over England at this tournament. It also marked a bleak end to the best English campaign in nearly three decades.
Belgium scored the winner just four minutes into the match. Nacer Chadli streamed down the left flank on a counterattack and put in a low cross. Thomas Meunier got a foot to it under heavy pressure and slotted it past a frozen Jordan Pickford.
In the 17th minute, the Belgians had an opportunity to double their lead. Kevin De Bruyne played the ball to Romelu Lukaku in a dangerous position, but Lukaku’s touch let him down. Belgium had another chance in the 35th minute when Toby Alderweireld put an overhead kick over the crossbar.
England enjoyed more possession in the first half but failed to threaten seriously. Harry Kane missed his best opportunity, sliding as he took a shot and putting it wide in the 23rd minute. Thibault Courtois was never called upon to make a difficult save.
Dries Mertens came on to replace Lukaku in the 61st minute, all but ensuring that Harry Kane would win the Golden Boot. Belgium threatened minutes later, but Fabian Delph slid in to knock the ball wide for a corner.
England finally looked like scoring with twenty minutes to go. Eric Dier had a beautiful one-two with Jesse Lingard. Dier put a shot past Courtois, but Toby Alderweireld intervened and cleared the ball off the line.
The Belgians sealed the deal in the 82nd minute when De Bruyne played a perfect ball in to Eden Hazard. Phil Jones looked out of sorts, playing Hazard onside. Hazard finished beautifully, and the Belgians were on their way to their best ever finish.
Belgium’s golden generation may realize that they missed their last best chance at a World Cup title, but the best ever finish is a fine consolation. For England, a promising start to the knockout stages came to naught. Their young squad, though, has many fans confident that their future is bright.