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England vs Belgium yellow cards: How Group G first & second place could depend on fair play points

18:02 GMT+3 28/06/2018
England Tunisia referee World Cup
The Three Lions and Red Devils are already assured of spots in the last 16 but the order in which they progress from Group G is yet to be determined

England and Belgium are both assured of last-16 spots at World Cup 2018, but their final standings in Group G could be determined by fair play points.

The respective sides of Gareth Southgate and Robert Martinez were always expected to progress to the knockout stages, with Tunisia and Panama left to make up the numbers.

That has proved to be the case, with two heavyweight outfits having made light work of the also-rans.

England put six past Panama in their last outing, while Belgian plundered five goals against Tunisia.

Having collected maximum points from two fixtures so far, the Three Lions and Red Devils are locked together on six points.

Both also boast a goal difference of plus six at this stage, having scored and conceded the same number of goals too, with England currently top courtesy of their superior disciplinary record.

If the two teams were to play out a draw when they lock horns on Thursday, then the top two spots in the group will be finalised by a card count.

As things stand, Southgate’s side have collected two cautions – to Kyle Walker and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – while Martinez’s men have three bookings to their name – to Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Meunier and Kevin De Bruyne.

With attention starting to drift towards challenges further down the line and a possible route to the final, it has been suggested that finishing second in Group G could be most beneficial.

If England were to adopt that mindset, then they would either need to lower their standards and accept defeat or get physical in a battling draw.

Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey admits that he was once asked to book a player who had one eye on upcoming games, with it possible that a similar situation could unfold in Kaliningrad.

Halsey told CNN on receiving a yellow card request from an English top-flight performer: "He's just said 'listen, look, we've got a game Tuesday. If I don't get cautioned now and get one Tuesday, I'll miss the big derby on the Saturday.

"So he just asked me if I could show a yellow. And I did actually.

"I said to him, 'Alright, we've got 10 minutes to go, when I give a free-kick against you' -- and I knew I would because he's that sort of player - 'just leather the ball 50 yards away and I can caution you for dissent.'

"If you've got big games coming up and you're on four yellow cards, one more means you get suspended. I just said to him, 'Don't do nothing stupid.'

"He came up to me at the end of the game and said, 'Thanks for that Mark.'"

Southgate has insisted that he will be setting his side up to win on Thursday, but both he and Martinez have vowed to make changes in a contest with little riding on it.

The opportunity to rotate and give minutes to those yet to see any World Cup action is to be gratefully snapped up, with rests being offered to those nursing knocks or in need of a break.

Somebody will, however, have to top Group G and drop into the top half of the Russia 2018 draw alongside the likes of France, Argentina, Uruguay, Portugal, Brazil and Mexico.

The side finishing second will join Spain, Russia, Croatia, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland in the bottom half, which potentially offers an easier route through the competition.

First up, though, will be last-16 encounters with rivals from Group H, with Japan, Senegal and Colombia scrapping for two knockout berths.