World Cup 2018: countdown begins to final weekend in Russia – live!

by Theguardian

Football
All the build-up to Belgium v England and France v CroatiaHas the penny finally dropped for newly-disciplined Paul Pogba?Kane declares himself fit for third-place play-off with BelgiumAny thoughts? Email Richard or tweet @rrjparkin

5.37am BST

Being an English masthead before it became a global masthead, The Guardian is beholden to perhaps run a closer rule over England’s performance at this World Cup, so please do forgive the indulgence, global readers, if this feels a bit St George-centric, but if you cast your mind back to the toxic reception the England class of 2014 got after finishing bottom of their group in Brazil, it’s nothing short of a modern miracle, this English footballing renaissance.

Barney Ronay with some wise words and precautionary advice for the English public and media, going forward:

Related: Mind the gap: Southgate’s challenge now is bridging promise and triumph | Barney Ronay

5.28am BST

Psychologically at least, you’d presume Belgium go into this one with an edge, given the disappointing nature of England’s capitulation, having gone ahead early only to then surrender their World Cup final berth to a never-say-die Croatian outfit.

This lovely piece from Daniel Taylor captures some of Gareth Southgate’s personal disappointment, but also why optimism remains ahead for this young English group of players:

Related: Gareth Southgate sanguine as he calls for extra composure against ‘top teams’

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