Oh, well. It was a nice idea, wasn’t it? It just wasn’t to be. Football isn’t coming home, it is instead going back to its French stepfather or crashing at his Croatian mate’s house for a bit. Shame.
Still, as much as most English folk are still reeling from the disappointment of losing that bloody semi-final, there is still the small matter of the third place play-off to attend to. Oh, yeah. And the final. The 2018 World Cup Final. Probably shouldn’t forget that.
Let’s have a quick look at both games, shall we?
It’s hardly a secret, but England were on the easier side of the draw. Brazil, Belgium, Spain, France… Come up against one of those and The Lightning Seeds might not have made quite so much in royalties this summer. The sheer quality from both sides in the first semi-final demonstrated that quite perfectly. France triumphing with some style against a pretty impressive Belgium side.
The French take on those pesky check-shirted lot that proved to be England’s demise, Croatia. It’s something of a mismatch, but France only go in as slight favourites. Deschamps’ petite pois are just hitting their stride and they haven’t had three knackering 120 minutes matches in the past week or so like their opponents. France are Evens, the draw is 9/4 and you can get Croatia at 4/1.
The game’s on Sunday, kick off is at 3pm. Griezmann and Mbappe are both 9/2 shouts for first goalscorer, with Ollie Giroud at 11/2. If you fancy Umtiti to repeat his semi-final heroics with another thumping header, you can get him at 25s. Mario Mandzukic, the undoer of England, leads the way for Croatia in the FGS betting at 15/2. Modric at 12s appeals, given he’s on penalty duties.
The last two times these countries met things ended all square. It’s worth mentioning that neither side has any suspensions or major injury worries, aside from Ivan Strinic who may miss out for the underdogs.
Our prediction? France’s quality and Croatia’s legs will combine to see Les Bleus progress. 2-0, with goals in the second half after a cagey opener.
The Third Place Play-Off
Hmmm… Bit of a funny one, this one. It’s only the second proper dead rubber of the 2018 World Cup and it features the same two teams. England Belgium I meant very little and England Belgium II arguably means even less. Depending on how you look at it, of course.
To some it’s a nice end to a nice tournament. Sure, it finished with disappointment, but the same is true for 31 other countries. Win this and it’s a bronze medal and, in the right light, bronze is pretty much the same colour as gold, isn’t it? Sure it is. Some people will say this is a chance to go out there and have the first XI really show what they’re made off and beat a decent team. Others will argue it’s a pointless exercise and no one cares who wins in the loser’s play-off. But how will Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate feel about it…? Our guess? A respectful nonchalance.
We see both managers putting out their second strings. They both have to appease the player’s club managers and not risk injuries or burnout. Sure, all the 23 squad players from both setups will want to be involved, but we reckon it’s another reserve lot out there. Which will disappoint six-goal Harry Kane who will want to guarantee the Golden Boot, but really frustrate four-goal Romelu Lukaku who needs a hat trick to steal in.
We expect to see similar teams to that third group game here in this 3pm Saturday kick off. Belgium are 5/4 and England are 2/1. It could go either way, this. Depending on which fringe players want it enough. We’ll be confident are say that England pinch it 2-1 with a decent showing from Marcus Rashford (who, at 9/1, is a decent bet to net first).
England may not be there, but a World Cup Final’s a World Cup Final, isn’t it? If you fancy heading out for it or to see if England can nab third, click the image above and book at table at your nearest Rileys. It’s been an amazing World Cup and there’s plenty left of summer – so get out there and enjoy it!