The Latest: Martinez praises Belgians for style, substance

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Saturday at the World Cup (all times local):

9 p.m.

Roberto Martinez believes his Belgium lineup deserves high praise for its third-place finish at the World Cup.

Belgium beat England 2-0 in the third-place playoff on Saturday at St. Petersburg, surpassing the country’s previous best fourth-place finish in 1986.

Along the way, Belgium had to rally from 2-0 down for a 3-2 win in the round-of-16 game against Japan, had to beat five-time champion Brazil in the quarterfinals and beat England twice. Belgium’s only loss in the tournament was in the 1-0 semifinal defeat to France.

Martinez says “We faced eye-to-eye to Brazil. We overcame a 2-0 deficit against Japan — that is the first time it happened since 1966. We scored the biggest amount of goals in a Belgian team in World Cup history. We got 10 different goal scorers — which is a record also with France (1982) and Italy (2006).”

The Belgium coach says the records “showed the strength of this side.”

“We’ve been a team. We’ve suffered together. We’ve played football that a mutual fan of the World Cup really enjoyed,” he says. “We got the best qualification for Belgium in the history of the World Cup and that makes me very, very proud.”


8:05 p.m.

The man who restored England’s mojo at the World Cup, and brought the waist coast (or vest) back into fashion, has signed off after a fourth-place finish with some love for Russia.

England coach Gareth Southgate wrapped up his news conference after his team’s 2-0 loss to Belgium in the third-place playoff by thanking the people of Russia for their welcome during the tournament.

The British government has led efforts to sanction Russia since a nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in March. A second and possibly linked poisoning last month killed a woman and left a man in the hospital.

The British government did not send an official delegation to Russia for the World Cup, and members of the royal family decided not to attend.

Southgate took it upon himself to play an ambassadorial role.

“The way we’ve been received in Russia has been fantastic. The organization of the tournament has been brilliant. Our welcome in Russia in every city has been outstanding,” Southgate said. “There’s a lot talked about relationships between our two countries — but on a personal level and mixing with the people of Russia, we couldn’t have been more welcome.”


7:15 p.m.

France captain Hugo Lloris says the team will not repeat a mistake of two years ago when it plays Croatia in the World Cup final.

As the 2016 European Championship host nation, France peaked in the semifinals by beating world champion Germany.

France then failed to reach the same high level in Paris and lost the final to Portugal, 1-0 after extra-time.

Lloris, who was France’s goalkeeper then, says: “I don’t think it’s going to happen again.”

Paul Pogba has said the French believed the Euro 2016 trophy was all but won after the semifinals.

Lloris notes 14 of France’s 23-man squad in Russia were not even at the Euros, while the other nine now benefit from a change in conditions.

Two years ago, France played a Thursday semifinal before the Sunday final. Here, France beat Belgium on Tuesday.

Lloris says: “A lot of things have changed, especially when it comes to recovery and preparation time.”


6:51 p.m.

Belgium has achieved its best World Cup finish by beating England 2-0 in a third-place playoff, a game neither team really wanted to play.

Thomas Meunier gave Belgium the lead in the fourth minute when he prodded a Nacer Chadli cross past Jordan Pickford in the England goal.

Belgium was a constant threat on quick, incisive counterattacks and made it count again when Eden Hazard scored from a Kevin de Bruyne pass in the 82nd. Belgium’s previous best finish at the World Cup was fourth place in 1986.

It was Belgium’s second win over England in the tournament, following the 1-0 victory in the group stage.

Defender Toby Alderweireld denied England’s best chance of the game, sliding on the goal line to clear a chip from his Tottenham teammate Eric Dier.


6: 40 p.m.

Eden Hazard has given Belgium a 2-0 lead over England in the World Cup third-place playoff.

Hazard picked up the ball from Kevin de Bruyne on an incisive Belgian counterattack and fired it past Jordan Pickford in the England goal in the 82nd minute.

Belgium is headed for its best-ever World Cup finish, beating fourth place in 1986.


6:30 p.m.

FIFA has fined England 70,000 Swiss francs ($69,900) for a second time at the World Cup for players wearing non-approved socks.

FIFA says it also warned England’s Football Association for the misconduct of a small number of fans singing “political chants” during its semifinals loss on Wednesday.

At the same game against Croatia, two England players wore a type of branded sock FIFA has cracked down on at this tournament.

FIFA says the “unauthorized commercial branding” repeated a previous offense in England’s quarterfinals win against Sweden. That also resulted in a 70,000 Swiss francs ($69,900) fine.

The fines had nothing to do with the holey socks Danny Rose wore in the third-place game against Belgium.


6:05 p.m.

The holes in Danny Rose’s socks generated plenty of online debate during England’s World Cup third-place playoff against Belgium.

FIFA has fined players for wearing socks which didn’t comply with uniform or sponsorship regulations during the tournament, but there doesn’t seem to be any rules against holey socks. Some speculated the holes — which were relatively round and in both socks — were designed to prevent cramps. There’s no scientific evidence for that.

And there was no official explanation before Rose was replaced just at halftime when England was trailing Belgium 1-0.


5: 47 p.m.

Belgium has taken a 1-0 lead into halftime in its World Cup third-place playoff against England.

Thomas Meunier gave the Belgians the lead in the fourth minute, scoring from close range off a cross from Nacer Chadli.

Belgium could have made it 2-0 seven minutes later when Kevin de Bruyne took the ball in a good position but goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made a key save.

England started the game slowly, looking every inch a team which was taken to extra time in its semifinal loss to Croatia three days earlier, despite making five changes to the starting lineup.

Harry Kane, the tournament’s leading scorer, had England’s best chance but shot wide after losing his footing.


5:05 p.m.

Thomas Meunier has given Belgium a 1-0 lead over England in the World Cup third-place playoff.

A quick and direct Belgian attack in the fourth minute ended with Nacer Chadli crossing from the left wing to Meunier, who beat Danny Rose to the ball and shot past Jordan Pickford in goal.

It’s the first goal of the tournament for Meunier in five games. He is the 10th goal scorer for Belgium in this tournament, helping his team equal a record held by Italy (2006) and France (1982).

Belgium is aiming for its best-ever World Cup finish, beating fourth place in 1986.


4 p.m.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Phil Jones will start for England in the World Cup third-place game against Belgium among five changes made by coach Gareth Southgate.

There’s also a start for Eric Dier, Fabian Delph and Danny Rose. Harry Kane, the tournament’s leading scorer, remains in the lineup following the World Cup semifinal loss to Croatia.

The players dropped to the bench are Ashley Young, Kyle Walker and the central midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli.

Belgium had a day’s extra rest after its semifinal loss to France, and coach Roberto Martinez has made just two changes.

Thomas Meunier and Youri Tielemans will start in the Belgian midfield in place of Marouane Fellaini and Moussa Dembele.


England: Jordan Pickford, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, Phil Jones, Fabian Delph, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Belgium: Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Thomas Meunier, Youri Tielemans, Nacer Chadli.


3 p.m.

Croatia captain Luka Modric believes the toughness of his World Cup squad has some roots in the war that broke up the former Yugoslavia.

On the eve of the soccer World Cup final against France, Modric has been reluctant to go too deeply into answering a question from a reporter who identified himself as a war correspondent from the 1990s, when Croatia became an independent state.

The question was about “how this war forged the spirit of yourself and of the team.”

The 32-year-old Modric was a child when his grandfather was killed and his family forced from its home. He replied by saying “I don’t like to go back to these things. It’s all in the past.”

He adds “Of course, everything influences you. It’s made us resilient as people, as the nation.”

Croatia has spent the maximum amount of time on the field at this World Cup. The team playing extra-time in all three knockout games, and trailed to the first goal scored each time.

Modric has covered more yards than any player at the World Cup, registering 63.03 kilometers (39 miles) in six games, according to FIFA.


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