Belgium are celebrating their best ever FIFA World Cup™ finish after defeating England 2-0 in this morning's third place play-off at St. Petersburg Stadium.
The European nation had previously finished fourth at the 1986 tournament in Mexico.
But spurred on by the mercurial Eden Hazard, Roberto Martinez's side swatted that record aside with their second victory over England in a month, concluding an excellent stint in Russia.
Hazard sealed the deal late in the day after driving onto a Kevin De Bruyne pass and beating Jordan Pickford with a fine near post finish. The two Premier League stars have been at the forefront for Martinez's swashbuckling Belgium side, and in a match that saw 19 of 22 players from England's top flight start the match the Belgian duo were clearly in a class above.
It could prove to be a crowning moment for the poster boy of Belgium's golden generation. The 27-year-old Chelsea attacker has been involved in 25 of his side's last 25 goals and was directly involved in seven of Belgium's 16 scored in Russia.
As a result, there was barely a whisper of surprise when Hazard was awarded man of the match following the game - the third he's received this tournament.
Belgium are almost guaranteed to finish top scorers of the competition, with France and Croatia needing six and four respectively to equal their tally of 16.
The team have also had 10 different goalscorers in their impressive run following Thomas Meunier's third minute tap-in, a feat only rivalled before by France in 1982 and Australia's Round of 16 conquerors Italy in 2006.
Having become the first team in history to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win at the tournament when they defeated Japan in the Round of 16, Belgium have left a significant mark on a memorable 2018 FIFA World Cup™.
The side also enjoyed a landmark victory over five-time winners Brazil in the quarter-final, and Martinez was overjoyed at the team's performance.
"We've been a team. We've suffered together. We've played football that a mutual fan of the World Cup really enjoyed," he said.
"We got the best qualification for Belgium in the history of the World Cup and that makes me very, very proud."
Although England were outclassed for the second time in the tournament by their Group G opponents, Gareth Southgate's side will undoubtedly depart Russia with their heads held high.
Fourth is England's best finish at the World Cup since 1990, and despite remaining level-headed with his team's achievements Southgate is looking forward to a bright new future.
“We’ve finished in the final four, but we’re not a top-four team yet," he said.
"Against the very best teams, we’ve come up short. But we’ve had a wonderful adventure and some experiences which will stand this group of players and staff in good stead for the future.
"We have to try to constantly evolve and improve. We’ve done that, particularly over the last eight months, and we’ve ended up having a brilliant adventure here."
All eyes now turn to the Luzhniki Stadium for tomorrow morning's FIFA World Cup™ Final.
2018 FIFA World Cup™ Final
France v Croatia, Luzhniki Stadium - Monday 16 July 1.00AM (AEST) kick off.
COVERAGE: You can watch the game LIVE in Australia on SBS and Optus Sport, with coverage starting from 11pm AEST.
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