When these two teams last met, the outcome would determine which would finish top of Group G and consequently navigate the so-called ‘harder’ route to the final.
The loser, however, would find itself on the easier side of the draw, avoiding the likes of Brazil, Argentina and France.
In the end, the route to the final mattered little and both sides, having lost in their respective semifinals, found themselves in Saint Petersburg to contest the maligned third-place play-off, with Belgium coming out on top thanks to goals by Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard.
Perhaps the players would have preferred to be on holiday after a long season, but it didn’t show in what was a blistering start to the game.
England appeared to be dominating before a typically piercing Belgium counterattack saw Nacer Chadli square the ball for Meunier to tap in at the far post in the fourth minute.
Managers Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez had provided the pre-match fighting talk, pointing out that both sides could yet make their own history.
Third place for England would have been the nation’s second-best performance at a World Cup, and the best on foreign soil.