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World Cup Final & Third Place Play-off Tips: 14th & 15th July
by the Cheeky Punter
For England fans it was a case of what could have been. After making a great start with Trippier’s free kick, Harry Kane’s missed chance in the first half always looked like being pivotal and in truth, it was as had England gone 2-0 up, I think that would have been enough to win the game.
As it was Croatia came out on top and claimed their place in the final alongside France.
The French didn’t start the tournament that well and in truth they looked very average in their opening group games, but since the knockout stage got underway they have played superbly with Mbappe showing why many feel he will be the next great thing in world football. Croatia will have their work cut out.
For England it’s a third place play-off against Belgium on Saturday… which if we’re being honest no ones gives a monkeys about.
World Cup Third Place Play-off Tips: Saturday 14th July
July 14, 2018
Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
July 14, 2018
Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
Belgium lost to France 1-0 in their semi-final. They have already played England once in this World Cup winning 1-0 in the group stage.
England lost their semi-final 2-1 after extra time to Croatia to make sure football is most definitely not coming home this time around.
Both teams will likely field sides with many changes for this game, as they did in the group game between the teams.
England have played Belgium 22 times, losing three, winning 15 and there have been four draws, though Belgium did win the last encounter between the teams ton 28th June.
The third place play-off match is always an anti-climax for the teams involved and it is usual for the managers in this game to give the remainder of the squad a chance to play in this game. Oddly, this occurred when the two teams met in the Group stage, when a second string Belgium took on a second string England.
Motivation for the teams is hard following a World Cup semifinal defeat and in their previous encounters in this game, both Belgium and England lost, Belgium losing to France in 1986, while England lost to Italy in 1990.
In truth, I see this as being a similar game between the two sides that met in the group stage and probably with similar teams. Belgium won that match but in truth it should have probably finished in a draw.
I am not sure either team will view finishing third as a feather in their cap and I think it will hardly be a spectacle, but once again I am going to back Belgium to come away with the win.
France have been superb en route to the final, never being pushed into extra time in their victories over Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium.
Croatia, in contrast, have played extra time in all three of their games on the road to the final and have been taken to penalties in two of them.
Neither side will have any players suspended for the final and both will likely have full strength squads to pick from, although Strinic is a doubt for Croatia.
The teams have met five times previously, the last two matches have been draws (2004 and 2011) but before that France won the first three encounters.
Croatia have certainly had to put in plenty of effort to get to the final, effectively playing an extra 90 minutes in extra time to reach Moscow. In contrast France have not been pushed into extra time so far and have had an extra 24-hours rest ahead of the final in Moscow.
For me, those stats could be absolutely fundamental to this game. Croatia’s players, who are older, have effectively played one extra game than France and had the emotional drama of two penalty shootouts. Reaching the final is a huge step for Croatia and they may well be satisfied with that.
However for France, victory is now the key goal and in truth, I think they are the better of the two teams and while I think Croatia have some players that can cause France problems, especially in midfield, I think France’s attack and the pace of Mbappe will terrify what is an ageing and somewhat leaden-footed Croatian defence.
I think the best two teams at the tournament will contest the final but for me, France are the best of the bunch by far and I am fully expecting them to get the job done here and to win the World Cup with a strong and commanding performance.
The Cheeky Punter is an ex professional online sports bettor and trader with over 15 years of experience in the industry. He has worked for a number of top bookmakers including Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral. He's also written for a number of leading news outlets including the Guardian, i (newspaper) and Soccer Lens. More about him here.