In some ways you could argue its one of the toughest games a player will have to prepare for. Having come so close to sporting immortality, Belgium and England must now recompose themselves to go in search of what will be a high-water mark for at least two generations of fans, or even the greatest ever footballing achievement.
This flowing, expressive, exceptionally talented Belgium side have been touted as potential world-beaters for some time and, with members of their ranks the wrong side of 30, they will arguably be ruing that missed shot at football’s biggest prize more than others. But Saturday presents the chance for greatness, as bronze would see them exceed the heralded side who finished fourth at Mexico 1986.
England’s squad are one of their youngest ever to appear at the finals, so while the sense of a last chance is not there, one of a missed opportunity is. Both starting XIs will be tough to predict, coming at the end of a long seven games for all involved, but third place would be the Three Lions’ biggest achievement since triumphing in 1966. It would also see them equal the recent feat of their women’s team, who earned bronze at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015.
Belgium have the chance to surpass class of 1986
England looking to earn best finish in half a century
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld; Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli, Thomas Meunier; Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku
England: Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire; Kieran Trippier, Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Fabian Delph; Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane.