Third or fourth? The point may not be important for some, who even say that there is no sense in imposing this match on teams traumatised by their semi-final failure. However, the Red Devils are only 90 minutes or a little more, from reaching Belgium’s best result in their World Cup history.
The same is not true of England, chasing its second trophy since 1966, without the means to land it. The English team even appeared to “take it very easy” against Belgium on purpose (0-1) in the group stage, to avoid being drawn against Brazil in knock-out rounds but have, all the same, ended up in the third-place play-off along with the Red Devils.
The match kicks off at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg, where the French machine destroyed Belgian hopes on Tuesday in the semi-final (1-0).
At least this will be a “genuine” match. However between the two coaches, Roberto Martinez seems to be more motivated to scoop third place, but both will probably make the most of the occasion to reward the players who up to now have had very few chances to play.
None of this is likely to lower the standard of play during the proceedings. Quite the contrary, given the motivation and the freshness of these reserve troops.
An interesting “match within in the match” will be the “duel” for the title of best striker, which will see Harry Kane (6 goals) and Romelu Lukaku (4 goals) competing against each other.
In addition, for Belgium, although not everyone appears to be convinced, third place in the competition may not be the field of honour for the golden generation. The event comes ten years after they missed the 2008 Olympic Games, owing to a lack of willingness on the part of the Belgian Football Union, which gave into the players respective clubs. To the greatest displeasure of…none other than Vincent Kompany, amongst others, at the time.
In any case, it is certain that the Red Devils want third place, but without considering it as the final result of their efforts.
Thibaut Courtois reminds everyone, “In two years, there is another European Championships, and we’ll have another chance to distinguish ourselves by producing a good tournament.”
We will start to think about the tournament in September. However, meanwhile I would like us to finish strong by taking third place. I believe that we deserve it, and that we will do everything we can to take it. We have to do it, for us as a team, so that we do better both than four years ago and at the last European Championships. Moreover we have to do it to establish a new benchmark, which a future generation could resolve to beat…”