Before we can get to the juicy World Cup Finals between France and Croatia, there is still the third-place match to discuss, and that will kick off Saturday morning in St. Petersburg, Russia.
This oft-criticized encounter will feature Belgium vs. England, and while both sides are certainly disappointed to be playing in this match, opposed to Sunday’s – it is always good to head home with a big victory under your belts with the eyes of the soccer world watching.
It is also a tad humorous that both England and Belgium will meet for the second time here in Russia, with both games essentially being friendlies. You will recall a couple weeks back when England took on Belgium in the final match of the group stage – one in which both sides were likely hoping to lose. Of course, Belgium won 1-nil in that game and they’ll meet weeks later with only a third-place finish on the line.
Belgium were overrun by France in the semis, something I was personally surprised by. Their defense wasn’t solid enough and they looked porous in the midfield. The French have figured out their tactics and they’ll be a force for the Croatians on Sunday. For England, they have to be crushed to not be in the Finals, in what was likely the chance of a lifetime for their nation. They cruised to the semis without much difficulty, and looked excellent vs. Croatia for the opening thirty minutes. After that though, their midfield crumbled and they lost hold of the match. The better side advanced, but the chances were still there for England. Now, they’ll have no choice but to swallow their pride and go into the third-place game looking to end their Russia 2018 campaign on a high note.
Even though these third-place matches are often criticized and don’t usually feature the top quality players – it’s still big for the federations and for our wallets. After dropping a pair of semi final matches, let’s hope the final weekend of a thrilling World Cup can end on a high note here at The Sports Geek. Read on below for a full match breakdown and an official betting prediction for England vs. Belgium in the Third Place Match.
England vs. Belgium Betting Odds:
Over 3 (+102)
Under 3 (-122)
England vs. Belgium Pick:
I’d expect both managers to shuffle their lineups quite a bit from what we saw in the semi-finals. Most often this game is used to give younger and more inexperienced players proper World Cup experience, and that’s what seems likely entering Saturday’s encounter.
For Belgium, look for a very attack-minded squad focused on youth and speed. Michi Batshuayi should return up top, and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Romelu Lukaku get minutes as well. The main target man for the Red Devils is in the hunt vs. Harry Kane of England for the Golden Boot, and he might be able to get on in this match and score a couple to take hold of that prestigious trophy. Belgium will also be scary good out wide with Thomas Meunier likely returning to the right flank, while Yannick Carrasco mans the left side. England’s defense will need to be on high alert.
For the Three Lions, don’t be surprised to see Harry Kane get minutes as well for the same reasons given for Lukaku above. Kane currently leads Golden Boot scoring with six tallies, one ahead of Romelu Lukaku. If Kane gets on and scores – it could all but seal things up for the Spurs striker. Outside of that, look for a young England lineup with Marcus Rashford, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Trent Alexander-Arnold all playing big minutes. That trio could be the core of the squad in four years time, and look for Gareth Southgate to let them show their skill and quality against Belgium.
Both sides will not be holding anything back and I doubt defense will be overly prevalent in this encounter. I’m expecting a ton of speed and skill to take the pitch on Saturday morning, and this game should feature a wealth of talented young players keen to make a name for themselves. Even though this is a match nobody wants to really be in, I expect both managers and players will push for a victory – making a draw and an extended match likely out of the question. It’s tough to pick a side with lineups yet to be determined, but England’s depth makes them attractive at an underdog price. That said, with all of the talent on the field – this game won’t be short on action. I anticipate a high-scoring thriller between these quality nations, and think the Over 3 will be your best bet in this consolation showdown.
MY PICK = Over 3 (+102)