England vs. Belgium: Finding Value In A Match Nobody Wants To Win

Jun 28, 2018 10:00 AM EDT

Belgium vs. England, 2 p.m., Fox

  • Belgium +178
  • England +179
  • Draw +210

Bet to Watch:

Marcus Rashford to Score At Any Time +280

A matter of hours ago, assessing the best value bets for a game such as this was nearly impossible. However, with champions Germany now eliminated, the significance of finishing first or second in Group G may have changed very slightly.

Both England and Belgium are guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16, and the former currently top Group G by virtue of having received one fewer yellow card than Roberto Martinez’s side. The question is, do either of these sides actually want to win the group, with so many pointing to the fact that an easier route to the semifinals may await the side that finishes second.

That assumption is disrespectful to the teams vying for the top two spots in Group H, however, and if the reigning champions’ exit on Wednesday served to highlight anything it is that the pre-tournament favorites aren’t the cut above that the odds had suggested. Gareth Southgate in particular has been keen to dismiss reports that he is looking beyond the next game.

That said, both coaches are expected make changes for Thursday’s game in a bid to avoid suspensions and exacerbate any existing injuries.

Kyle Walker is the man on a booking that England will be looking to protect, with Gary Cahill likely to come into the back three, while Thomas Meunier, Jan Vertonghen and Kevin De Bruyne all have a yellow card to their name and will likely sit out. With reports suggesting that both Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku could also drop to the bench, the star-studded Belgium lineup may still be seriously depleted.

Southgate has mentioned that he will offer a number of those who haven’t seen much action a start in order to ensure they are ready as and when needed in the latter stages, but crucially Harry Kane seems set to keep his place.

The England captain is leading the way in the race for the Golden Boot as things stand, and you try telling the Tottenham striker to hold back in front of goal with that in mind! He’ll be keen to stretch his lead, knowing that a sixth goal would equal the country’s record tally from a player at a World Cup, with Gary Lineker winning the Golden Boot with that figure in Mexico in 1986.

With The Red Devils set to ring the changes at the back, potentially putting the fitness of Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen to the test, the England captain will be more than happy to put them through their paces.

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Moreover, even though it’s true that the overall intensity of this game is more than likely to suffer, it’s also the case that both sides have very capable attacking talents in reserve who will be aiming to make an impression on their respective coaches.

With that in mind, and the bookmakers unable to split the sides in the odds ahead of what will be a curious encounter to say the least, the best option may well be to look into the goalscorer markets, hoping for everyone’s sake that this match doesn’t go the way of Denmark-France and end in a damp squib.

With that man Kane tipped to start, he’s a well-priced favorite to score at any time. But when changes are expected, and to a degree predictable, there’s always value to be had in players who are set to come into the side. Michy Batshuayi is in line to be the focal point for Belgium, while England are set to replace Raheem Sterling with Marcus Rashford, who will be desperate to prove a point.

The Manchester United man has a habit of scoring on his first start in the different competitions in which he plays, and this would be his debut outing from kick-off at a World Cup. Against a rotated defense, not to mention one that might be lacking match sharpness, the youngster will want to stake a claim for a place in the 11 for the Round of 16, and his pace and trickery could cause real problems.

Rashford is fifth-favorite with most bookies in the anytime scorer market and he, for one, won’t be taking this game lightly.

Follow Martin Laurence on Twitter
@martinlaurence7
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