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Belgium vs England: Go for goals in play-off

Belgium vs England Match Preview and Predictions

It may be the match that nobody wants to play but history suggests the World Cup third-place play-off could be an entertaining contest.

Belgium and England may still be pondering what might have been after their semi-final defeats to France and Croatia respectively and victory on Saturday will be no consolation.

Neither team is expected to be at full strength but the goals could flow in St Petersburg, even if success in this fixture would be a hollow win ahead of the main event on Sunday.

Belgium vs England Betting Tips

The lowdown

England and Belgium face the unusual prospect of facing each other with little at stake for the second time in the tournament.

Both teams had already secured their place in the last 16 when they met in the final round of World Cup fixtures in Group G and with the winners going through to arguably the toughest half of the draw, there was a strange atmosphere.

In the end it was Belgium who won 1-0 thanks to Adnan Januzaj's second-half strike but the record books show the shackles usually come off in this game.

There have been at least three goals in every World Cup third-place play-off since Poland's 1-0 win against Brazil in 1974 and both teams have scored in eight of the last 10 matches so the value is in backing goals.

With that in mind, the first of our Belgium vs England betting tips is over 3.5 goals at 6/4.

First goalscorer tips

Michy Batshuayi and Marcus Rashford have had limited chances to show what they are capable of at the World Cup due to the form of Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane respectively.

Unless Lukaku and Kane get the nod as they battle for the Golden Boot, we think this could be time for others to shine. Batshuayi scored one of Belgium's goals in the 5-2 victory over Tunisia but could have had a hat-trick if he had taken his chances and is tempting, but Rashford can be backed at almost double the odds so is our pick to score first at 8/1.

Anytime goalscorer tips

England's centre-backs have provided good value in the anytime goalscorer betting at the World Cup due to the focus on set-pieces, with the use of VAR restricting the tactics available to the opposition.

John Stones and Harry Maguire have both found the net and assuming he is included in the line-up, we like Gary Cahill to be on target at 15/2. He has five England goals already, including one in qualifying and another in the pre-World Cup friendly against Nigeria.

Where the game will be won or lost

There was little to choose between the two teams when they met in the group stage, with England (1.01xG) and Belgium (0.98xG) producing very similar amounts of chances.

We're not reading too much into that fixture, though, given that neither manager seemed particularly keen to go into the half of the draw that included Brazil and France.

This time they will be out to end their impressive World Cup campaigns on a high and three of the last nine play-offs have ended 3-2, with both teams scoring in the first half in three of the last five.

Both teams to score in the first half appeals at 27/10 for our Belgium vs England predictions, especially with the Three Lions generally playing at a high tempo and fading in the second half under Gareth Southgate.

For punters looking for bigger odds from their World Cup betting tips, Belgium to win 3-2 is worth a speculative punt at 20/1.

Team news

The fitness of the England squad will be assessed but the short gap between the semi-final and the play-off means changes are inevitable. Kieran Trippier, Ashley Young and Jordan Henderson are almost certainly ruled out after suffering injuries against Croatia.

Traders' Tips - View from the trading floor

Eden Hazard has been in superb form for Belgium in this World Cup and had they not been knocked out by France he would have been a strong contender for the Golden Ball. The Belgium captain takes penalties and has been a prominent attacking threat all tournament and for that reason we are siding with him to score first at an enhanced price.

80+ Minute Goal Insurance: Applies to all matches in the World Cup tournament. Stake refunded as a Free Bet up to €/$/£20 if a goal after 80:00 turns a winning Match Result bet into a loser. Goals scored in Extra Time or Penalty Shootouts do not count. T&Cs apply.

More World Cup previews here

Warren Barner
@warren_barner in World Cup