World Cup 2018: Third Place Playoff − Is it a pointless match?
On the 15th of June, two nations -- France and Croatia will arguably play the biggest game of planet earth, with hopes of bringing glory to their homeland. About twenty fours hours before this gigantic game a third place play-off between the losing semi-finalists will take place at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. Football is not coming home this time and England’s players too are not coming home just yet as they meet Belgium again in this World Cup for another meaningless match.
Having gone through the agony and heartache of losing a semi-final, both the teams now have to battle it out for a match that nobody wants to play in. The third place play-off has been a part of the World Cup since its inception in 1930, with the United States of America taking the third place in the inaugural edition.
The players and fans alike would still be hurting and playing a game just days after losing such a huge match would be just asking too much from the players. Just knowing the fact they were so close to reach the pinnacle of the sports, any interest or excitement for this match would have died down along with the will to play.
The third place play-off has found very few takers across the football world. It is hard to find a football fan that remembers any third place play-off match, but the same fan remembers the Goetza and Iniesta winner or the Zidane head butt. The mere fact that twelve goals were scored in the third place play-off of previous three editions as compared to only four goals in the finals, tells you something.
It’s a game that players couldn’t care less as the results don’t matter much, hence the leaky defense. One can call it a bronze medal sort of match, but, in truth, there are no actual bronze medals to be given.
In the Olympics the third place play-off makes sense since the winner gets a chance to win an Olympic medal and also add to their nation’s medal tally but for the football World Cup, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Both the managers, Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez echoed similar statements regarding the playoff. Both the gaffers agreed that it will be a difficult game to manage as emotions are still running high and it will be very difficult to get the players mentally prepared. When you really think of it, the gaffers are actually right since there is no impetus whatsoever to get the players hyped up and motivated for the match.
When you look back at Russia 2018, nobody will remember what happened on July 14 but everybody will talk about July 15 and the crowning of the new world champions. Also, when you look back at Belgium’s and England’s World Cup campaigns, it will be the semi-finals that will be remembered and not the results of July 14 match.
One team will also end up losing back-to-back matches, counting the semi-finals lost -- hardly ideal for a team that was one step away from the grand finale.