The World Cup third-place game often comes down to motivation, and both England and Belgium might be lacking in desire. Both teams faced crushing semifinal defeats, and both thought they could have won and advanced to the final match.
English tabloids are characterizing Saturday’s match for third as a “glorified friendly,” saying the Three Lions are still hurting from their defeat to Croatia. England was favored to win, and scored the first goal five minutes into the game, and managed to fend off any semblance of a Croatian attack for the next 40 minutes plus stoppage time.
The second half, however, turned into a nightmare. Croatia scored at the 68th minute to tie it and then peppered England’s goalie with shot after shot as England’s defense appeared to take an early holiday.
Croatia finally put the game winner into the back of the net in extra time, in the 109th minute, to crush England’s hopes of revisiting the World Cup final for the first time since they won it in 1966.
Belgium faced a tougher task against France. It was billed as an offensive affair, as both teams can score goals. France was favored by oddsmakers at 8/11.
France outshot Belgium 19-9, and finally scored in the 51st minute, drilling a header past the goalie, putting them in position to advance, sending a dejected Belgium to the third-place game.
Who Wants It More?
Belgium is a slight favorite in the match, checking in at +125, while England is at +210 to win. The over/under line is set at three, with the under at -120, and the over at even.
The consensus is that England will have trouble with Belgium’s potent offense, which has scored 14 goals in the tournament. Defender Kyle Walker assured fans the team will be ready for the projected offensive onslaught.
“It’s still something massively to play for, to be the third-best team in the world,” Walker said after Wednesday’s semifinal loss to Croatia. “Who would have thought it, at the start of the tournament when everyone was writing us off?”
Though his teammate, 32-year-old defender Gary Cahill wasn’t as optimistic about playing the consolation match.
“I don’t quite understand the game in some aspects,” Cahill said. “It’s a very strange game. But nevertheless it’s a fixture. The game’s there and we need to play it.”
Belgium’s star Vincent Kompany was far more enthusiastic about playing on Saturday. At 35, Kompany could be playing in his final World Cup.
“If we can finish third, it’s the best-ever result at the World Cup for Belgium,” Kompany said.
Group Stage Rematch
If gamblers are reading into the public comments, it certainly seems Belgium is more motivated for this match. England, though, could surprise them with their potent offense, which includes Golden Boot leader Harry Kane.
Kane has six goals and his nearest pursuer will be across the pitch from him. Romelu Lukaku has four goals to Kane’s six, and may try and make a run at the award for most goals scored in the tournament. Kane has said he doesn’t care about the honor.
The two teams met in Group G, but both had sewn up a trip to the Round of 16 and rested key players. There is a chance other players will be inserted into the starting lineup as a reward for hard work. Much was the case in their previous match when Belgium rested Lukaku, and England sat Kane. Belgium won that game, 1-0.