MOSCOW. — A superb second-half strike from Adnan Januzaj gave Belgium a 1-0 win over England yesterday to help them top World Cup Group G with a perfect record and consign England to second place.
Belgium will now face Japan next week while England battle Colombia but, crucially, avoid a potential battle against Brazil in the quarter-finals.
Victory in the next round would see Belgium play Brazil or Mexico with England up against Sweden or Switzerland in the quarters should they beat Colombia.
Belgium and England rested several first-choice players yesterday and, despite half-chances at either end, the fans wondered if their teams were willing to accept second spot for an arguably easier run-in by avoiding the more fancied teams.
Yet, six minutes into the second half when the 23-year-old Januzaj shimmied on the edge of the box and sent a perfect shot into the far corner of the net past
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford there was delight in the Belgian camp.
England rued a wasted opportunity by Marcus Rashford after 66 minutes, when he fired wide after finding himself one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois in the Belgian goal.
But having rested striker Harry Kane and seven others, they found no reply.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez fielded Thomas Vermaelen at right-back after injury and sent on central defensive talisman Vincent Kompany near the end to complete a clean sweep with all 20 outfield players in the squad having played in Russia.
Tunisia wrapped up their 2018 World Cup campaign on a positive note as they defeated Panama 2-1 at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk last night.
The result sees the Carthage Eagles end in third place in Group G, while Los Canaleros placed fourth with a hat-trick of losses on their tournament debut.
Both teams showed urgency and intent in attack through the first half, but in truth goalkeepers Jaime Penedo and Aymen Mathlouthi were rarely called upon to make any significant plays.
Penedo’s only real action arrived in the 19th minute when a cross from Wahbi Khazri brought a scruffy effort from Rami Bedoui which the ‘keeper easily smothered.
Panama then claimed the lead through a slice of luck in the 33rd minute. Jose Rodriguez’s long-range effort took a wicked deflection off Yassine Meriah, who was credited with an own goal after the ball wrong-footed Mathlouthi and found the net.
The Carthage Eagles responded well to going behind and created several opportunities to level the game before the break, the best of which saw Fakhreddine Ben Youssef send a glancing header just wide of the target on 39 minutes.
The ginger-haired striker did find the back of the net early in the second half, getting on the end of a low Wahbi Khazri cross and sweeping home a shot from close range to make it 1-1 on 51 minutes.