Two long range strikes from Belgium condemned England to a second successive Nations League defeat. The result raises further concerns around Gareth Southgate’s formation and tactics, as England’s attack faltered in creating any clear chances, whilst the defence was sloppy in possession.
England enjoyed greater possession throughout the game, but Southgate’s men never really troubled the Belgian goal, despite Jack Grealish’s great performance. The defence stood well against the Belgian attack, but will rue misplaced passes gifting Belgium goals.
Leicester player Youri Tielemans opened the scoring in the 10th minute after England were sloppy playing out from the back. Belgium won the ball from Eric Dier’s misplaced ball out, Romelu Lukaku held the ball well before finding Tielemans who slotted it in off the right-hand post from outside the box.
England almost equalised soon after. Grealish had a tap in blocked by Toby Alderweireld before Harry Kane nearly celebrated his 50th cap by heading in the resulting corner, but again blocked on the line by Lukaku.
Dries Mertens scored Belgium’s second from a freekick in the 23rd minute, placing the ball over the wall and out of reach of Jordan Pickford. It is the first time since 2017 that England have conceded two goals from outside the box. The ruling of the freekick was contentious after Declan Rice clearly made contact with the ball.
England took control of the second half, yet they were unable to break down the resolute Belgian defence as they eased to victory.
England play Iceland in the final game of the group on Wednesday, whereas Belgium will battle Denmark where Belgium need at least a draw to top the Nations League group.