World Cup 3rd Place Game Results 2018: Belgium Celebration Highlights, Reaction

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2018

Belgium's team pose with their medals after winning their Russia 2018 World Cup play-off for third place football match between Belgium and England at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on July 14, 2018. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Belgium finished third at the 2018 FIFA World Cup after beating England 2-0 in St. Petersburg on Saturday. Goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard were enough to seal the country's highest finish at a World Cup.

England went behind after just four minutes when Romelu Lukaku played in Nacer Chadli down the left. The winger hung a teasing cross over for right-back Meunier to prod home.

U.S. viewers can see the goal and the celebration on Fox:

FOX Sports @FOXSports

Red Devils strike first! Thomas Meunier gives Belgium an early 1-0 lead. #BELENG https://t.co/Q6SLZtekU8

Meanwhile, audiences in the UK can watch it on ITV Football:

ITV Football @itvfootball

GOAL! Meunier gets on the end of Chadli's cross to give Belgium the lead! https://t.co/GA4wlBXdc5

It was a first international goal for Paris Saint-Germain defender Meunier, who celebrated with the provider:

Belgian Red Devils @BelRedDevils

That feeling when you score for the first time @FIFAWorldCup ! 😁 πŸ‘ @ThomMills ! #REDTOGETHER #WorldCup #BELENG https://t.co/PubzdamZ28

There was another factor to Meunier's goal, one that underlined the impressive attack-minded and stylish collective game the Red Devils have played during the tournament:

FIFA World Cup πŸ† @FIFAWorldCup

That goal from @ThomMills means that he has become the TENTH #BEL player to score at this #WorldCup for @BelRedDevils! #BELENG https://t.co/VaRFcuG5Rg

As the half lurched on, England began to grow into the match but lacked enough cutting edge up top. It didn't help thatΒ Raheem Sterling couldn't get in behind, although the Manchester City winger wasn't aided by the right kind of passes from midfield.

The bigger issue was how far off the pace centre-forward Harry Kane appeared. England's main source of goals couldn't involve himself in the play:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Harry Kane had fewer touches in the first half than any other England player... including Jordan Pickford 😳 https://t.co/MLV19tp9Vh #BELENG #worldcup https://t.co/iwvW5DiKgS

England tried to up both the pace and quality after the break. Chances followed, but Belgium remained a major threat on the break, thanks largely to Kevin De Bruyne's astute distribution through midfield.

The Manchester City schemer picked more than one smart pass between the lines:

BBC 5 live Sport @5liveSport

De Bruyne's passing today... 🎯🎯🎯 He's been outstanding for #BEL Join us live πŸ“²: https://t.co/iD04Y5vJ3l #BELENG #ThreeLions #bbcworldcup https://t.co/jEgRbBWHE4

De Bruyne was enjoying releasing Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens on the counter, but England's players were increasing the pressure at the other end. The Three Lions missed a great chance when Harry Maguire headed just over.

An even better opportunity prompted some magnificent last-ditch defending from Toby Alderweireld, who cleared off the line on the stretch to deny Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Eric Dier:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Alderweireld comes up big! Dier beats Courtois, but the center back clears it off the line to preserve Belgium's lead. https://t.co/3x0WziMH9Z

ITV Football @itvfootball

OFF THE LINE! Dier runs through on goal, chips over Courtois but Alderweireld clears off the line! https://t.co/C4l0WrUKfF

The reprieve proved significant because Belgium iced the game and third place eight minutes from time. Hazard got the goal after completing a swift and slick break, with De Bruyne typically pulling the strings:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Eden Hazard doubles Belgium's lead late in the game! https://t.co/VwR3MePkz7

ITV Football @itvfootball

GOAL! Hazard slots past Pickford to put Belgium further ahead and surely seal third place! https://t.co/0u0S8n5we8

It was all Belgium needed to end England's creditable World Cup campaign on a down note. By contrast, the Red Devils had acquitted themselves wonderfully in a tricky fixture where pride is the ultimate and meaningful reward.

However, there was at least a piece of history for the celebrating victors:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

#BEL have secured their best-ever finish at a #WorldCup by winning the third place play-off against #ENG https://t.co/x3Vj0R5ipX

It was an achievement worthy enough to prompt high praise from progressive coach Roberto Martinez:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Roberto Martinez can't speak highly enough of his #BEL players πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ #WorldCup https://t.co/vTcOzun9AY

Unlike an England side appearing out of energy, Belgium seized the moment to sign off the from the tournament in style.

While they couldn't go all the way, a competition-leading 16 goals is a fitting testament to the enterprising and entertaining brand of football the Red Devils played on the watch of Martinez.