Who? Belgium - England
Where? Krestovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
When? July 14, 16:00 (CET local time)
Belgium (Omri Tancman)
The last time Belgium and England met was a couple of weeks ago. In the final match of group H, Belgium and England sent their substitutes to the pitch and let their starters to rest. Here they meet again and one player who will be glad to receive the same opportunity he had in the group stage is Adnan Januzaj.
Not so long ago, Januzaj was considered as the future of Belgian football and as potential world-class superstar. In the season of 2013-2014 Januzaj emerged as a promising wonder kid for Manchester United. However, a series of bad performances and moreover, unsuccessful spells of loans led to a situation in which Januzaj is considered a bit like yesterday’s news. It is funny to say such thing on a 23 years old player but it is one of the symptoms of modern football.
Januzaj represents modern football in other ways as well. Current modern European football is overloaded with players having double and sometimes even triple nationalities, which can chose for who they want to play in their international career. Januzaj took this trend to the limit, and in early stages of his career he had the option to play for no less than 7 different countries. Januzaj’s family and especially his father were very vocal about the issue and the main dilemma was between Belgium and Kosovo, Januzaj’s father’s place of birth.
Januzaj chose eventually to represent Belgium and he was expected to be already one of the leading stars of the team. However, this has not happened yet. Maybe the upcoming match against England can join the previous and will create an awkward restart for Januzaj’s career.
England (Yossi Medina)
It's the end of the English dreams. They already touched it, felt that this is their chance, but England lost against Croatia and didn't qualified for the World Cup final. Yet, England can be proud in their performance during this tournament and now they need to look forward.
A quick look on the English squad can tell the story of their bright future. Harry Kane was the captain of the team at the age of 24 and many other players are younger than 26. The squad is composed of many players that will probably play be part of the next campaigns of England and will lead them to their next success.
More than the current squad, England is working hard for building the team. In the last year, England made history as their youth teams won both U-20 and U-17 World Cups. Some of the players that played at the U-20 World Cup final against Venezuela already played at the Premier league such as the winning goal scorer, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and one of the dominant players in this tournament, Dominic Solanke.
It's part of a long-term plan of the FA. England realized that in order to reach the level they wish, they need to work harder. While other European countries such as France, Spain and Belgium made tremendous progress, England kept by somehow their old-fashioned style. These days are over and England now looks for make their dreams come true.
England showed us that maybe the national team has finally changed. Reaching the semi finals with such a young team can bring hope that England can do more with this generation. Yet, there is always that the team will crush with the rising expectations and two years from now, in Euro 2020, England will have another disappointment. No matter what will happen, the fans will always have the same refrain in their hearts, "it's coming home". One day, it may really come home.