June 28, 2018 / 9:24 PM / 22 days ago

Subdued but still hopeful, England fans look beyond Belgium loss

KALININGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - Disappointed England fans in Russia were left to rue a lackluster 1-0 loss to Belgium on Thursday, but believe their team can still go far at the World Cup.

Soccer Football - World Cup - England Fans watch England vs Belgium - Brighton, Britain - June 28, 2018 England fans watch the match in Brighton REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Both England and Belgium went into the match in Kaliningrad knowing they had qualified for the last 16, but the atmosphere among England fans after the game was more subdued than celebratory.

“Dull, boring, lifeless - nothing else to say really. But we’re going to win the World Cup anyway so don’t worry about us!” said Leighton from Liverpool.

With both teams qualified, much of the pre-game talk had revolved around speculation a second-place group finish might offer an easier path through the tournament as it avoided a potential clash with Brazil.

Fans like Tom, 26, from Milton Keynes chided England, saying they had fielded a weaker side showing eight changes from the team who crushed Panama 6-1.

He said the strategy had backfired as the loss meant Gareth Southgate’s side finished second in Group G and face Group H winners Colombia next, rather than Japan who play Belgium.

Soccer Football - World Cup - England Fans watch England vs Belgium - Brighton, Britain - June 28, 2018 England fans watch the match on Brighton beach REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

“Absolute disgrace. You play your best team. If it’s not good enough, then so be it,” he said.

“We’ve got a harder game now in the last 16. We were too busy being concerned about avoiding Brazil in the quarter-final and now we might not even get there,” he said.

The atmosphere among England fans outside the stadium in Kaliningrad was quiet with a few fans chanting “We’re on our way!”

Graham Waites, 57, who had traveled to the game from Sweden, was less critical of the performance.

“Belgium maybe deserved to win, but nobody was really playing so far because we’d already qualified. But it was disappointing because we want to keep winning to keep building confidence in the team,” he said.

He was unsure if England would overcome Colombia.

“Who knows, Colombia, sometimes they play brilliant, other times they are disorganized. Hopefully, we will be more organized,” he said.

Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy; writing by Tom Balmforth, Editing by Ed Osmond

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