England beaten by Belgium in World Cup and face Colombia in last 16

Perhaps, trying to be optimistic, it may work out better this way, after all. Maybe England will be grateful later in this tournament that they have avoided the possibility of a quarter-final against Brazil. And, without wishing to get too far ahead, perhaps this defeat will not jar quite so much if England can find themselves in a position where it is Sweden or Switzerland trying to prevent them reaching the semi-finals rather than, in theory, the five-time world champions.

Alternatively, it may just be that England come to regret the night Gareth Southgate chose to field a vastly changed line-up – a vastly weakened one, too, on this evidence – when the reward for holding on to their place at the top of Group G would have been a tie against Japan in the first round of knockout matches.

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