England coach Gareth Southgate has played down his side’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium in their final Group G game of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup on Thursday.
Southgate rested some key players which backfired as they lost to Adnan Januzaj’s stunning strike which saw England finish second. They will face Colombia in the round of 16.
Going into Thursday’s game, both England and Belgium had already booked their placed in the knockout round.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Southgate dismissed insinuations that his side wanted to finish second in order to avoid a potential quarter-final clash with favourites Brazil.
“I think it’s an even game. I thought they had better controlled possession than us at times,” he said.
“It was a good test for us. This was a game that we wanted to win, but the knockout game is the biggest game for a decade for us so we had to make sure our key players were preserved.”
He praised his players who featured against Belgium, stating they gave their all.
“The players who’ve played tonight have given absolutely everything and never stopped. Everyone’s seen the level that we’ve been playing at and we’ve got to keep improving.”