What happened this morning?

Belgium achieved their best ever World Cup finish,

to claim third place.

The goals came at either end of a relatively entertaining affair, Thomas Meunier opening the scoring in just the fourth minute before Eden Hazard iced the cake with eight minutes remaining.


At their best – and we've seen that many times at this tournament – Belgium can lay claim to being the number one side in the world. France weren't better than them in their semi-final and they won their other six matches.

When Kevin de Bruyne is in charge of a football match, there are few classier players in the world and with a glittering support cast, Belgium are one of the most watchable sides on the planet. They may have fallen just short here, but they'll win a major tournament soon.

And despite losing their last two games, England can return home with their heads held high. They've galvanised their sporting public in a way few of their predecessors have been able to do in the last three decades.

The way English supporters have embraced this team and their exploits in the last month has been almost unprecedented, and with the vast majority of the squad still in their early to mid-twenties, there may be plenty more for their fans to enthuse about in the next few years.

There's a large school of thought that this game shouldn't be played at all.

After the emotion-charged heartache of falling at the semi-final stage, the last thing these sides would have wanted was another game of football. They'd much prefer to jump on a plane and get home as quickly as possible.

Instead, they're forced to play an effectively meaningless contest for the sole reason of Fifa making more money from an extra match.

To illustrate the point, can you name the last few third-place finishers at a World Cup?


Stat chat
This was England's 100th game at a major international tournament – 69 at World Cups and 31 at European Championships.

Of the 22 players who started the game, 19 play for English clubs.

Thomas Meunier became the tenth different goal scorer for Belgium at this World Cup, equalling the record held by France in 1982 and Italy in 2006.

England have won only one of the previous 21 World Cup games in which they've conceded the first goal; that was the 1966 final against Germany.

England have now lost three of their past five matches; their previous three defeats came over a period of 28 matches.

Belgium's Eden Hazard completed 40 dribbles at tournament; just three players have had more successful dribbles at a single World Cup since data was kept in full detail from 1966.

Harry Kane ended the World Cup with six goals from six shots on target, but had just one shot on target in his final four games, which was his penalty against Colombia in the round-of-16.

They said what?
Roberto Martinez, Belgium coach: "We wanted to win it. When you beat Brazil and get into the semi-final, the focus has to be to try to win the World Cup. But you need to be realistic when you finish the tournament and look back. These players made history back in Belgium and that's all that matters. These players deserve to have that accolade."

Gareth Southgate, England coach: "We're under no illusions as to where we stand as a team; we've finished in the final four but we're not a top-four team yet, we know that and we've never hidden behind that. Against the very best teams we've come up short but we've had a wonderful adventure and some experiences that will stand this group of players and staff in really good stead for the future."

Did you know?
England's fourth-place finish is their joint-second best in a World Cup, matching 1990 and behind only 1966 when they lifted the trophy.

What's next?
There's just one game to go and it's the big one – the World Cup Final – France vs. Croatia in Moscow at 3am tomorrow morning.