World Cup 2018: Why England Fans Want Their Team to Lose Against Belgium
After 15 days of non-stop action in the World Cup, the final group stage games kick off on Thursday to decide the last four teams to make it to the knockout stages. Fans will have a day to catch their breath before the Round of 16 kicks off on 30 June, Saturday.
The last fixture sees England and Belgium go head-to-head. Although it was one of the standout fixtures in the group stages prior to the World Cup, the fact that both teams are already through to the knockout stages means the match could be a low-key affair devoid of any real drama.
We have already seen Argentina snatch a Round of 16 spot right at the death while defending champions Germany were knocked out after South Korea scored two late goals to leave Die Mannschaft at the bottom of their group.
Sadly, we will not see anything like that when The Three Lions take on The Red Devils. As much as the game has been hyped up, we could see key players rested to avoid injuries or suspensions as they prepare for the knockout stages.
Also read: Belgium's Predicted Playing XI vs England
How things stand in Group G
Although England and Belgium are currently top of the group with the same points, goal difference, and goals scored, England are top since they have a better disciplinary record.
Both Tunisia and Panama are yet to win a single point at the World Cup, having suffered defeats to England and Belgium. The final game is their last chance to play for pride and go home with at least a draw or a win.
Also read: England's Predicted Playing XI vs Belgium
However, the focus will be on England vs Belgium. Premier League stars vs, er, Premier League stars. Gareth Southgate vs Roberto Martinez... Nope, it's not working. This match could well be a dud.
Group G winners go into the tougher half of the draw
As one can see, the group toppers will move into the top half of the draw while the group runners-up move into the bottom half of the draw.
The top half of the draw consists of all the major heavyweights - Uruguay, Portugal, France, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Of course, they will knock each other out before the quarter-finals but the Group G toppers will meet either Brazil or Mexico in the quarter-finals.
In contrast, the other half of the draw sees Group G runners-up face either Sweden or Switzerland (if they beat the Group H toppers - Japan / Senegal / Colombia).
It is safe to say that, on paper, finishing second in Group G gives that team a better chance of advancing further in the tournament compared to topping the group.
Fans want England to finish runners-up, Southgate doesn't care
This is why social media is abuzz with English fans not too fussed about possibly losing to Belgium if it means they have a better chance of progressing to the semi-finals at least.
Remember, England have not gone past the quarter-finals stage since 1990! The only teams they have beaten in World Cups since 2006 are Slovenia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, and Panama. The win against Ecuador was their only win in the knockout stages.
This has also ignited a debate on what each team's priority should be. Win every game and keep their momentum intact or lose now to go further in the tournament. It also raises the question of ethics.
Besides, losing to avoid the heavyweights is a defeatist attitude that will only see doubt linger in the back of this young squad's minds. They will only ask themselves: "Are we not good enough to play the big guns yet?"
That is the last thing Southgate wants and the man who has spoken with a lot of common sense compared to England managers in the past is absolutely spot on.
"It's momentum and we want to keep that moment going," Southgate said at the pre-match press conference. "Our mentality is to win every game we can.
"We just want to keep winning and winning. That'll put us in good stead. It doesn't matter who we might play next because to get as far as you can, to get to the final you're going to have to face these top teams.
"Either way you're going to have to play them so, if we play them early, that's how it's going to be."
Fans have paid thousands of pounds on airline tickets, match tickets, and hotel bills. The last thing they want is two teams avoiding a positive result.
The crowd booing France and Denmark in their final game - a dull draw and the only 0-0 result of the tournament so far - is a reminder that nothing but players giving their absolute best will be satisfactory.
Sure, both teams will rest players. But they must not be asked to play without 100% commitment.
This is the World Cup.