Why is there a World Cup 2018 third-place play-off & when to watch Belgium vs England

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The third-place game is played between the losers of the semi-final round in the World Cup and is generally forgotten about – so what is its purpose?

Belgium will face England on Saturday to play in the World Cup's third-place play-off fixture, which awards the winner the bronze medal of the tournament.

The third-place fixture is generally a forgotten and obsolete event, as neither team would be keen on playing in it – they would much rather be in the final, and go home as 'losers' of the tournament regardless.

It is played between the teams who were eliminated in the semi-final of the competition.

Here is everything you need to know about this year's third-place fixture.


What is the World Cup third-place play-off?


The third-place play-off is essentially a consolation match to be played between the two losers of semi-final round, and in this case, it will be played between Belgium and England.

The game was first introduced at the second World Cup finals in Italy in 1934, but has since become massively unpopular with the teams – and is extra added work for a meaningless honour.

Belgium lost 1-0 to France in the last four of the competition and England were defeated by Croatia 2-1 in extra-time after taking the lead early on in the first half.

The fixture is generally forgotten about and thought of as a meaningless game, as neither team would much rather prefer to have played in the final – and the winners of the so-called 'bronze medal' are usually not remembered once the tournament finishes.

The Netherlands won the third-place play-off match four years ago against tournament hosts Brazil.

Brazil entered the fixture off the backs of their humiliating 7-1 defeat to eventual champions Germany, and lost 3-0 – which led to head coach Luis Felipe Scolari being dismissed from his post.

For the Dutch team, it was their first bronze medal in the World Cup after finishing as tournament runners-up in South Africa four years prior.


When is the World Cup third-place play-off?


This year's third-place play-off fixture will be played on Saturday July 14, one day before the World Cup final at 3pm BST (10am EST) at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.


Why is there a World Cup third-place play-off?


Harry Kane Ashley Young England World Cup

The official reasoning behind the fixture is that its results will be used to compile FIFA's global team rankings, which are also used to seed teams for competitions.

The main reason for the third-place play-off is, of course, television rankings.

According to the official FIFA report about TV ratings for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the third-place fixture between Uruguay and Germany was the 14th-most-watched game out of the event (out of 64 total fixtures) in terms of global television viewers, at 245 million (which takes into account both viewers of the live telecast and viewers of replays or tape-delayed telecasts).

It also garnered more television viewers than four of the eight last 15 fixtures, and two of the four quarter-finals.

It has been met with disdain by several key figures in the sport, such as Louis Van Gaal who coached the Dutch team when they won the fixture four years ago – calling it "unfair".

"This match should never be played. I've been saying that for 10 years; it's unfair," said Van Gaal ahead of the third-place clash against Brazil, who was about to take over as head coach of Manchester United.

"The worst thing is that there is a chance you are going to lose twice in a row. And in a tournament in which you have played so marvellously well you go home as a loser.

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"There is only one award that counts and that is becoming world champions."

Additionally, it is also a chance for the fans for the participating fans to enjoy watching their team at a World Cup stage without the pressure. It is also an opportunity for players to play in a high-profile game on one of the sport's biggest stages without the usual burden.

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