The current England World Cup 2018 outright winner odds of 15/2 are the closest that the Three Lions have been to the head of the tournament betting since 2002.

With qualification already secured to the knockout rounds with a game to spare, much of the talk prior to England vs Belgium is what result will be better for England’s overall chances.

A win maintains momentum, but will thrust Gareth Southgate’s men into what is perceived to be the tougher half of the knockout draw. The likelihood would be a quarter-final tussle with Brazil, with France, Argentina, Uruguay and Portugal in this section.

Lose to Belgium and finish as Group G runners up, and Spain, Croatia and possibly Colombia look the biggest obstacles to England reaching a first major final since 1966.

The call from many parts is for Harry Kane and co to play to lose and the anticipated World Cup betting also indicates that a defeat would be the preferred outcome.

What will England World Cup winner odds be if beating or losing to Belgium?

Normally in a betting sense, a team, player or animal needs to do something positive to see their odds shorten for a respective event.

However, the England World Cup winner odds are expected to be cut to 6/1 in the outright market if they lose to Belgium. Meanwhile, should the Three Lions win and make it a perfect nine points from nine, their price will drift to 8/1.

This may be contrary to what is usual, but research from Gracenote Sports does back it up.

After running a million simulations, it was discovered that England had an 18% chance to reach the final if finishing as group runners up, compared to only 12% if topping Group G.

However, rather than plotting paths through the tournament that revolve around losing games on purpose, it should be remembered that England haven’t won a knockout match against any team at a major tournament for 12 years.

Furthermore, across the last four World Cups, England have only beaten the following teams – Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, Slovenia, Tunisia and Panama.

This doesn’t give the impression that Southgate can afford the luxury to be picky and start attempting to play the draw.

To conclude, here’s a stat to leave you with – all of the last 16 World Cup semi-finalists progressed to the knockout rounds with the momentum of a victory in their final group-stage game.

Maybe beating Belgium is best for England after all. Just remember to wait until after the game to bet on the England World Cup winner odds.