Although they’ve still got a game against Belgium to go (7pm tonight, ITV), England have already qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup 2018, with the team due to play the winner or runner-up of Group H in the Last 16.
Following this afternoon’s Group H results, we know England will play Japan (Monday 2nd July at 7pm BST) if they top Group G, or Colombia (Tuesday 3rd July at 7pm BST) if they come second.
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A 1-0 victory from Colombia over Senegal, and a 1-0 win for Poland against Japan saw the final Group H table look like this…
Exactly which of these two teams England will play depends on their performance against Belgium this evening. The Three Lions currently top the group by FIFA fair play rules, with the team only picking up two yellow cards so far, compared to Belgium’s three.
FIFA states if two teams are tied like Belgium and England, their group rankings will be determined by the “greater number of points obtained regarding fair play conduct. Yellow card = -1, indirect red card (as a result of a second yellow card) = -3, direct red card = -4, yellow card and direct red = -5, with only one of the deductions applied to a player in a single game.”
So, a win or a draw (providing England isn’t handed more cards than Belgium) tonight would see England top Group G.
Here’s how the table currently looks…
Although some have suggested England would be better off finishing second in Group G, manager Gareth Southgate is aiming for a win against Belgium.
“We have no idea who, when or where we will play,” he said at a recent press conference. “We’re just pleased we’re in the next round. We’re building a team that everyone back home can see are passionate to play for England, that want to win every time they go out and are improving every time.
“We want to win. That would mean we top the group and then we can move forward. I go back to the fact we’re trying to develop a winning mentality and I can’t imagine a situation where I talk to the players about anything else. It just wouldn’t be authentic for what we’ve been trying to build for the last two years.”