Still not over the defeat in the semifinals, England and Belgium reluctantly prepare for the third-place match, scheduled on Saturday, a day before FIFA World Cup 2018 final. Much like the previous match England and Belgium played against each other in this World Cup (in the group stage), both sides are again reluctant to play a match that is often regarded as pointless.
When they met in the final group match, both England and Belgium had their spots in the Round of 16 already booked. The only significance of the match was to decide who will finish as group toppers and runner-ups.
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez switched nine players and England manager Gareth Southgate, who became a national hero, brought in eight. Ultimately, Belgium won 1-0 through Adnan Januzaj’s curling shot to end up as group toppers and they were handed the tougher side of the draw in Japan, Brazil and France.
Meanwhile, England played against Colombia, Sweden and ultimately went down to Croatia 2-1 in extra time on Wednesday to put an end to their dream campaign amidst thousands of fans screaming – It’s coming home! Instead, the team now wants to go home with neither their manager nor their captain seeing much point in staying back for this match.
“It’s not a game any team wants to play,” said England manager Gareth Southgate. “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.”
Captain Harry Kane, who is the leading scorer at the World Cup currently, isn’t looking forward to the match either. “It’s not something I’m really thinking about,” he said. “It’s not the game we wanted to be in, as a team. It is what it is, but we’ll try and play that game with as much pride as a team as try and finish on a high. We’re still going to be hurting.”
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez echoed the feelings of Southgate and said, “It’s a difficult emotion to manage. You’re disappointed because you lose the semi-final, and it’s very difficult to see the opportunity of playing another game as a positive. We need to regroup and recover and see the opportunity. To try to finish third in the World Cup doesn’t happen often. The only time it happened in Belgian football was in 1986, when we finished fourth.”
Both sides will be featuring in their second third-place match, with Belgium losing to France in 1980, followed by England losing to Italy in 1984. Even if it might be a match to remember, it will certainly be the talk of Premier League locker rooms with both sides featuring players of five English clubs. While Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany and Kevin de Bruyne play for Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur have three players in the Belgium squad and five in the England squad. Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool also boast of players in both squads.