Rest and Rotate for Group G match
Belgium are set to rest their key players for their World Cup Group G crunch on Thursday. But news has surfaced that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez, and England manager Gareth Southgate intend to rest their major players, as they are in it for the long haul. Both teams have qualified for the last 16, so it is only the group winner that needs to be decided. So, it is an opportune time for players to rest their legs, recover from injuries and avoid the risk of suspensions. So, the reality is – a match that may have brought many to the edge of their seats, might actually prove to be a bit of a snooze.
“It will be major (team) changes against England,” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said. “The reality is that we are qualified and in a tournament like the World Cup, you’re only as good as the 23 players (in the squad). There will be opportunities for other players.”
“If we could have seven days to prepare (for) the game and then have another seven days until the next game, I would say let’s carry on with the same starting 11,” Martinez said.
Moreover, Belgium have other reasons on top of fatigue to rotate players, and that is that main striker Lukaku and playmaker Hazard both picked up injuries in the 5-2 win against Tunisia, Martinez said, as did forward Dries Mertens. Although none of those injuries appear serious, they are obvious candidates to miss the England match to ensure they are 100 percent fit for the knockouts.
Also, influential midfielder De Bruyne and defenders Vertonghen and Thomas Meunier have one yellow card at the World Cup. Another against England would see them suspended for the first of the knockout games.
But, how will the teams fare once they detour from their winning momentum? Martinez and Southgate will need to strike a balance if they want to make it till the very end.
“We don’t want to take our foot off the gas with the performances we are putting in right now,” England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek said after the 6-1 pummeling of Panama.
But Southgate said England also had to “decide what is our priority.”
“It is his (Southgate’s) decision, I guess,” said Kane, who leads the running for the Golden Boot award with five goals in two games. “Obviously I want to play, I want to perform. Whatever decision he makes, it is his decision.”
All in all, it’s hard not to think that the decision might also circulate around the fact that whoever wins the group could possibly face defending champion Germany or Neymar and Brazil in the quarterfinals. Second in the group presents, at least on paper an easier path. So, the reality is that Southgate and Martinez may very well be setting their teams up to fail to secure an easier spot in future matches.