Belgium beat England 1-0 in a low-key game in Kaliningrad on Thursday to top Group G and set up a World Cup last 16 clash with Japan. The Belgians will take a perfect group record into their match with Japan, Group H runners-up, on Monday in Rostov-on-Don. England finish second and will play Colombia on Tuesday in Moscow.
It was a slow-paced affair with both sides already qualified and neither seemed desperate to win the group and set up a potential quarter-final meeting with Brazil. But Adnan Januzaj had not read the script for a goalless draw - which would have seen the teams end with identical records though England top on fair play - and got the only goal of the game on 51 minutes with a curling shot from just inside the area.
The other Group G game was between the two already eliminated teams where Tunisia beat Panama 2-1 to finish third. Belgium won the battle of the changes before kick-off making nine from their last match with only Thibaut Courtois and Dedryck Boyata keeping their place. Gareth Southgate switched eight with Jordan Pickford, John Stones and Ruben Loftus-Cheek staying in and everyone else, including tournament top scorer, five-goal Harry Kane standing down.
Southgate admitted after the defeat: "It was a game that we wanted to win, but the knockout match is the biggest game for a decade for us so we had to make sure our key players were preserved." Belgium's leading scorer, four-goal Romelu Lukaku, had also been left out. In his absence Youri Tielemans was one of those charged with breaking down England and he was the first to test Pickford who pushed his shot away.
With England starting the game on top of the group because of one fewer yellow card, cautions were also going to be important and when Tielemans was the first name into the book Belgium edged further away from first place. Leander Dendoncker was the next to be booked after a foul on Danny Rose and the Belgian supporters cheered the yellow card in a surreal atmosphere in Kaliningrad Stadium. They were happy to see their team solidifying second spot.
The first half had been so staid that there was no added time. The two sides went in with England topping the group courtesy of fair play. Southgate replaced Stones with Harry Maguire at half-time. The defender watched from the bench as Marcus Rashford curled a shot well wide of Courtois' far post.
Moments later Januzaj showed him how it should be done when he put Belgium ahead with one of the goals of the tournament so far. Tielemans played him down the right and he rolled his foot over the ball to swerve past Rose and curl a shot past Pickford. England's Eric Dier said of the goal: "Belgium have a lot of players with a lot of quality and the game was decided by a piece of great quality." Belgium coach Roberto Martinez barely celebrated on the touchline.
He said afterwards: "The victory is a consequence of a very good performance. You cannot plan the ideal scenario, you've seen big nations already eliminated." Danny Welbeck replaced Alexander-Arnold on 78 minutes and he almost levelled but Fellaini diverted the shot wide. The Manchester United midfielder had a chance at the other end but fired into the side netting. It was not a night for goals. One, from Januzaj, had been enough to give Belgium top spot and leave England second but far from heartbroken over the loss.