England hopes of reaching the Nations League Finals were ended as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Belgium.
Gareth Southgate’s side needed at least a draw to ensure their chances of topping Group A2 remained alive going into their final game against Iceland.
However, first-half goals from Dries Mertens and Youri Tielemans put the hosts on track for a win that leaves them needing just a point in their final group game against Denmark to reach the Finals.
Belgium made a strong start to proceedings as some front-footed defending from Jan Vertonghen was followed by the ball being fired up toward Tielemans, whose shot took a deflection off Tyrone Mings before going in off the post just 10 minutes in.
England almost hit back immediately, Harry Kane’s header from a corner being brilliantly cleared off the line by Romelu Lukaku.
But Roberto Martinez’s men doubled their lead shortly after, Mertens curling in a fine free-kick despite the visitors’ protests that Declan Rice had not committed a foul in the build-up.
With Southgate’s words clearly ringing in their ears, England started the second half on top, winning a succession of free-kicks at the edge of the Belgium box before Kane forced a save from Thibaut Courtois with a low drive.
The visitors could not make the most of their chances, however, a theme that continued following the introduction of Jadon Sancho and Dominic Calvert-Lewin from the bench and ensured their evening would end in defeat.
What does it mean? Belgium march on
Belgium need only a draw against Denmark on Wednesday to guarantee their spot at next year’s Finals.
England, meanwhile, go into a Wembley clash with Iceland with little but pride to play for, a fact that could at least allow Southgate to get experimental with his line-up.
Tielemans shines for hosts
With the confidence boost of an early goal behind him, Tielemans went on to produce a fine all-round midfield showing.
The 23-year-old made 28 passes in the opposition half – more than any of his team-mates – and ended the game with the most clearances (three) and interceptions (four).
Mount struggles on wing return
After starting in midfield during the midweek win over the Republic of Ireland, Mason Mount returned to the right wing for this game.
The Chelsea man produced a disappointing performance, being restricted to just 28 touches in his 69 minutes on the pitch and making only 16 passes in the Belgium half.
England face group whipping boys Iceland in a dead rubber at Wembley on Wednesday, while Belgium host Denmark knowing a draw will see them through to the tournament’s finals.
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