England’s hopes of qualifying for the Nations League finals were ended by defeat against Belgium in Leuven.
Gareth Southgate’s side had plenty of possession against the world’s top-ranked side but England were toothless in attack and ultimately undone by two early goals.
Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans opened the scoring after 10 minutes when his 20-yard shot took a deflection of Tyrone Mings and Dries Mertens doubled their advantage 13 minutes later with a superb free-kick after Declan Rice was harshly adjudged to have fouled Kevin de Bruyne.
Belgium’s second came after Romelu Lukaku had headed off the line brilliantly from Harry Kane and while England spent much of the second half in their opponents’ half, they were unable to fashion the opportunities to work their way back into contention.
Defeat means England will not reach the finals after finishing third in 2019, when the inaugural showpiece was held in Portugal.
In the other match in group A2, Christian Eriksen scored twice to give Denmark a 2-1 victory over Iceland.
Grealish makes his mark
England were without the injured Raheem Sterling, giving Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish the opportunity to build on the fine early impression he has made at international level.
He emerged as England’s outstanding performer and driving force, drawing a succession of fouls from Belgium.
Irrespective of the result, Grealish can feel highly satisfied with his own individual display, which followed his impressive performances in the friendlies against Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
It also gives Southgate a pleasant problem. It has often seemed as if Grealish has had to convince Southgate of his pedigree at this level, and while the manager may still prefer a front three of Kane, Sterling and Marcus Rashford if all are fit and in form, he now has other options.
England host Iceland in their final Nations League match on Wednesday (19:45 GMT).
More to follow.
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- 2AlderweireldBooked at 51mins
- 15MeunierBooked at 54mins
- 6WitselBooked at 44mins
- 10T Hazard
- 7De Bruyne
- 14MertensSubstituted forPraetat 83′minutes
- 3TrippierSubstituted forSanchoat 70′minutes
- 8HendersonSubstituted forWinksat 45′minutes
- 15ChilwellSubstituted forSakaat 38′minutes
- 7MountSubstituted forCalvert-Lewinat 69′minutes
Match ends, Belgium 2, England 0.
Second Half ends, Belgium 2, England 0.
Foul by Harry Winks (England).
Axel Witsel (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Youri Tielemans following a fast break.
Attempt missed. Axel Witsel (Belgium) right footed shot from the right side of the box is too high. Assisted by Dennis Praet.
Attempt blocked. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Kevin De Bruyne.
Attempt blocked. Harry Kane (England) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Bukayo Saka.
Substitution, Belgium. Dennis Praet replaces Dries Mertens.
Attempt missed. Harry Kane (England) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Jack Grealish.
Corner, England. Conceded by Jason Denayer.
Attempt saved. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Dries Mertens.
Bukayo Saka (England) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Thomas Meunier (Belgium).
Hand ball by Harry Kane (England).
Attempt blocked. Harry Kane (England) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Bukayo Saka.
Foul by Dominic Calvert-Lewin (England).
Thorgan Hazard (Belgium) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Harry Winks (England).
Youri Tielemans (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.