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Gareth Southgate says ‘biggest game for a decade’ justified resting key players

• England manage only one shot on target against Belgium
• Southgate defends team selection that ended in defeat

Gareth Southgate has defended his weakened selection against Belgium, and a reluctance to bring Harry Kane off the bench as his side chased an equaliser, by suggesting England’s last-16 fixture against Colombia on Tuesday is the nation’s “biggest game for a decade”.

The 1-0 loss here has checked English momentum, with Kane kicking his heels among the substitutes and his lead at the top of the tournament’s scoring charts still at one goal, to leave Southgate’s team confronting an awkward challenge at Spartak Stadium next week. The manager accepted the eight changes to his lineup – Belgium made nine – had left him open to criticism but insisted all his players bought into a tactic aimed at the bigger picture.

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