Home English FIFA 2018: Reluctant Belgium, England face off in third place play-off.
Belgium and England have already met during the World Cup in a match both teams seemed reluctant to win and on Saturday they will face each other again in a game they both seem reluctant to play.
The two sides must pick themselves up and dust themselves down after suffering the crushing disappointment of semi-final defeats to play for the modest prize of third place in a fixture often criticised as pointless.
“It’s not a game any team wants to play,” said England manager Gareth Southgate after his team lost 2-1 to Croatia after extra time in Wednesday’s second semi-final.
“Of course, we want to win, we’ll be ready to go again because the team take great pride in their performances. It’s a bit too early after that defeat to think about it.”
His Belgian counterpart Roberto Martinez was similarly unenthused about the game after his side were beaten 1-0 by France on Tuesday.
“Its a difficult emotion to manage. You’re disappointed because you lose the semi-final, and its very difficult to see the opportunity of playing another game as a positive,” he said.
Even so, he said he would try to lift his team.
We need to regroup and recover and see the opportunity. To try to finish third in the World Cup doesnt happen often. The only time it happened in Belgian football was in 1986, when we finished fourth.”
The two teams previously met in their final group stage game when both had already guaranteed a place in the last 16 — with the twist that the side who finished second would land in the easier side of the draw.
Martinez switched nine players and Southgate brought in eight, a decision he described as a no brainer in the circumstances.
Belgium won 1-0 and were rewarded with games against Japan, Brazil and France while England played Colombia, Sweden and Croatia but the end result for both sides was the same — semifinal elimination.
“Sometimes I think you have to look at the bigger picture and make decisions that might be criticised,” said Southgate at the time.
The third-place match was dropped from the European championship by UEFA following the 1980 tournament but has remained part of the World Cup calendar despite complaints. FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Both teams are in their second third-place match, Belgium having lost to France in 1986 and England to Italy four years later.
It tends to be a high-scoring fixture with each of the last four winners scoring three goals — Turkey in 2002, Germany in 2006 and 2010 and Netherlands in 2014.
– Belgium play in a third-place playoff match for a second time, having lost 4-2 after extra time to France in Mexico in 1986.
– England are also battling for bronze for a second time, denied by hosts Italy in 1990 when Salvatore Schillaci netted a late penalty winner in a 2-1 victory.
– Belgium were beaten by France in their semi-final on Tuesday, the only game in which they failed to score in Russia, where their 14 goals still make them the top-scoring side.
– England captain Harry Kane is the leader in the race for the Golden Boot award for the tournaments top scorer with six goals, and is level with former striker Gary Lineker for most goals scored by an England player at one World Cup.
– Belgium won their first five matches in Russia to set a new Belgian record for consecutive victories at the World Cup. It included beating England in Kaliningrad in the group phase.
– There have been nine different scorers for Belgium at this World Cup, just one off the record of 10 set by France in 1982 and matched by Italy in 2006.
– England have scored nine out of their 12 goals at this World Cup from set pieces including penalties. It is also a record haul of goals at a single World Cup for them, beating their previous record of 11 set back in 1966, when they won the title.
– Midfielder Jordan Henderson lost his first England match in 31 games in Wednesdays semi-final defeat to Croatia, ending the longest unbeaten run of any England player ever.
– There are 11 of the 23 Belgian squad members who play at English clubs.
– Belgium and England have played each other 22 times. Their first clash was 97 years ago in Brussels, which England won 2-0. Since then England have won 14 more of their meetings while Belgium have won just twice, including victory in the group phase on June 28.
– Apart from their earlier encounter in Russia, England and Belgium have faced off twice before at the World Cup: a 4-4 draw in Switzerland in 1954 followed by a Round of 16 encounter in Italy in 1990 where England’s David Platt scored an extra-time winner.