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I don't want to return to England a loser - Courtois says pride at stake against Three Lions

02:22 BST 26/06/2018
The goalkeeper says plenty is at stake in the Group G finale, despite both teams already booking a place in the knockout rounds

Thibaut Courtois says there’s plenty of pride at stake when Belgium and England meet to determine who wins Group G in Kaliningrad on Thursday.

Both teams have confirmed passage to the knockout phases already, and many have suggested that finishing top of the group could be a disadvantage with the way the draw could map out.

However, Courtois says it is important to continue building momentum throughout a tournament, while adding that the fact many of the Belgium players are facing their Premier League team-mates adds extra incentive

"I don't think it matters if you finish second or first. But if you want to have that winning feeling, it's best to keep winning,” he said.

"For me, there is pride at stake. I don't want to go back to England in July with a losing feeling.

"It's about prestige because they have a lot of guys we know and we have a lot of guys they know."

Meanwhile Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez has claimed he could make a number of changes for the dead rubber, with injuries and possible suspensions to consider.

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne is one of three players who are one yellow card away from missing the last 16 match, whilst Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Vincent Kompany are all doubts with minor injuries.

“It could be an option,” Martinez said when asked if he would consider wholesale changes for the fixture.

“I think everybody deserves to play at the World Cup, so it’s more important for me to be able to give that opportunity and see how they can react on the pitch and how much they can contribute.

“Nobody has a place guaranteed in this team at the moment, that’s the way we are looking at it. So, it could be a possibility, yes.”

The former Everton and Wigan manager acknowledged that he understood the importance of the fixture for his Premier League players on his squad, but said it would be unprofessional of him if key players missed out in the latter stages.

“We need to look after every individual in order to be as strong as we can for the knockout phases,” he said.

“If that means some players need to miss out, that needs to be done for the good of the team and the good of the squad, so I don’t think it will be a problem to make the decisions that are right.”

Belgium and England are currently locked at the top of Group G with identical records, but a draw will mean that fair play could be factored into the calculations of who wins the group. 

Japan, Senegal and Colombia are all possible opponents for Belgium and England in the round of 16.