Southgate rested a cluster of players who had been involved in wins against Tunisia and Panama in England´s opening two games in Russian Federation, including star striker Harry Kane.
There was a unusual feeling around the game as both teams were already assured of progress to the last 16, with talk about the best path to the final compounded by a combined 17 changes. Although Southgate has stated his intention to win tonight's game against Belgium and take what comes, Belgium's Roberto Martinez had a decidedly more realistic outlook.
Robert Martinez and Southgate made wholesale changes.
Southgate acknowledges there is a balance to be struck between keeping his side fresh and injury-free and maintaining the momentum they have gained, particularly from the 6-1 crushing of Panama. Adnan Januzaj obviously impressed with his goal and Danny Rose caught the eye for England at left wing-back. But then this is a slightly weird scenario for all involved: where finishing second in Group G could offer a more favourable run to the semi-finals.
England appear to face a tougher task in Group H winners Colombia on Tuesday, but have avoided a loaded top half of the draw containing past winners Brazil, France, Argentina and Uruguay as well as European champions Portugal, by finishing second in the group.
This will be the fourth meeting of the two nations in major tournaments.
Having already qualified for the knockout stage, England and Belgium played out one of the most freaky group games you'll see in a World Cup with both selecting B teams and appearing as though winning was the last thing on their mind.
- Mexico need to reboot quickly to overcome high-flying Brazil in the Round of 16'? "But what that means for the next round, we don't really know", said Southgate. With 5 goals Kane is just 1 goal behind Gary Linekar - to equal the record of most goals scored by an English player in a World Cup. I understand why people question those decisions, but we have to prepare the team in the way we feel right.
"All the big names will come back in for the next game and we'll have to do a lot better because Colombia have got some unsafe forwards".
The team is to not look too far ahead in the tournament as this World Cup is very unpredictable, but instead focus on the fame against Japan.
"But at the end of the day we are still in the round of 16 and that's what we're looking forward to". We have also learned things tactically that might be important for us.