World Cup Third Place Game Preview – Belgium vs. England Prediction
The third place game at the World Cup often goes overlooked. With the Final looming the very next day, the third place game typically serves as what amounts to an undercard event. Both teams will still be distraught over missing out on the chance to play for the World Cup title, which leaves the right to finish in third place looking like an awfully forgettable consolation prize.
Still, considering we won’t get any more World Cup action for another 4 years, we might as well cherish the chance to watch it while it’s still ongoing. The bronze medal game typically lacks the intensity that we’ve seen through the knockout rounds, but that can also be part of the charm. With essentially no pressure on either team, the players can relax and have fun out there.
As a result, the third place game has a history of being fairly high-scoring. 8 years ago in South Africa, Germany topped Uruguay in a 3-2 thriller. The 2014 game was far more one-sided, but we still got 3 goals out of the Netherlands against a dejected Brazilian side still smarting from a 7-1 semifinal defeat at the hands of the eventual champions, Germany.
The 2018 third place game features a rematch of a game we saw in Group G action. Belgium, fresh off a disappointing 1-0 loss to France in the semifinal, will take on England, who were beaten 2-1 by Croatia in extra time. Belgium came away with a 1-0 victory of their own when they met back during the group stages.
The circumstances were fairly similar. There was essentially nothing on the line when they met in the last game of Group G. Both sides were tied atop the group, and there was actually more incentive to lose than there was to win. The winner would be sentenced to the more difficult side of the bracket that featured the likes of France, Argentina and Brazil, while the loser would be sent to the easier side with teams like Russia, Switzerland and Denmark.
As such, the Three Lions were more than happy to let the Red Devils take all 3 points. Both teams opted to rest most of their starters in order to let the backups get some playing time. One of those backups, Adnan Januzaj, wound up scoring what proved to be the match-winning goal.
We could see some similar lineups when the teams square off again on Saturday. Considering most of the featured players on both sides have logged plenty of minutes at this tournament already, giving them a break in a game with essentially nothing on the line seems like an easy decision. With club campaigns looming in about a month, I’d be surprised if we saw the likes of Harry Kane, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne or Raheem Sterling.
It would be fun to see Romelu Lukaku give Kane a run for the Golden Boot, but we may not get the chance. Kane leads all scorers at this World Cup with 6 goals, though Lukaku is within range with 4 of his own. Instead, we will likely see Jamie Vardy take Kane’s place for England, with Michy Batshuayi potentially leading the line for the Belgians. That said, if Lukaku starts and begins to inch closer to Kane’s tally, one would imagine Kane will come on at some point to try and secure that Golden Boot. Lukaku cracking the starting XI would certainly add some intrigue, if nothing else.
Gareth Southgate is sure to make other alterations due to injuries. Jordan Henderson, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker each picked up knocks in the Croatia game, so they will have to be replaced in the starting XI. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Eric Dier and Danny Rose would appear to be likely fill-ins for England.
Belgium have been involved in a number of high-scoring matches at this tournament thus far. That includes a 5-2 win over Tunisia, a 3-0 win over Panama and a 3-2 triumph over Japan in the knockout round. Here’s hoping we get another similar affair in this one. Both sides have no shortage of firepower, even if most of the regulars will be watching from the benches to start.
The implied total of 3 goals here is high, but clearly the oddsmakers think goals will be scored. Belgium are favored at +130, with England checking in with a price of +2o5.
I like the value here on England at +205, so they make for a solid flier bet. They will be eager to wrap up their Russia run with one of the most successful World Cups in the history of England, and I feel as though they will be the hungrier side. If Lukaku finds his way into Belgium’s starting lineup, however, that complicates things a bit. The bullish striker has been a handful for opposing defenders throughout the tournament. While the English defenders will be familiar with the Manchester United striker, he is still a potential game-changer.
If you want value, I think England at +205 are a solid try. Belgium at +130 is the “safer” option, but I’d shoot for the profit potential in this one.
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