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Belgium pip England to top spot, Japan sneak into last 16
[Image: belgfans2906.jpg]

MOSCOW, June 29 — Belgium beat England to top spot in their World Cup group yesterday after Japan sneaked into the knockout phase on the back of their superior disciplinary record. The 1-0 win for Roberto Martinez's much-changed team in Kaliningrad earns a second-round tie against Japan while England have mansion88 a trickier-looking match against Colombia.

But the result also means Gareth Southgate's young side avoid the top half of the draw in Russia, which contains heavyweights France, Argentina, Portugal and Brazil. The two managers made a combined 17 changes to their starting line-ups, with World Cup top-scorer Harry Kane missing from England's line-up and Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne all absent from Belgium's team.

Former Manchester United forward Adnan Januzaj made the difference, curling a superb shot past the outstretched hands of Jordan Pickford in the 51st minute. “This was a game we wanted to win but the knockout game is the biggest game for a decade so we needed to make sure our key players were reserved,” said Southgate.

“The players tonight gave everything. We have seen the level everyone has been playing at. We need to keep improving. “We kept pressing until the end. I think the supporters understand what the m88 app most important thing is.” The result capped a strange last day of the group stages after Colombia earlier qualified top of Group H, with Japan joining them in the knockout phase despite a 1-0 defeat to Poland in Volgograd.

As the minutes ticked away the players slowed to a walking pace in a farcical end to the match, with both sides settling for the status quo. Six hundred and forty kilometres to the northeast in Samara, Senegal, level on points, goal difference and goals scored with Japan, knew they needed a goal to nudge Japan out of the qualification spots.

But Aliou Cisse's side could not find the inspiration they needed to respond to Yerry Mina's second-half headed goal and their exit ended a miserable tournament for African sides, not one of whom m88 live progressed. Japan coach Akira Nishino said he was “forced” to tell his players to slow down at the end and not take any risks, despite boos ringing out from spectators. “It was a very tough decision,” he explained, adding: “I chose to keep the status quo in our game, and rely instead on the other result.

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