It’s the game no one wants to play. The World Cup third place play-off pits the two teams that lost in the semi-finals just five days earlier, and makes them play 90 more gruelling minutes for nothing more than a bronze medal.
In recent years, the World Cup third place game has become something of a farce. Players are exhausted, as it is after training hard and competing at their peak for six weeks at a World Cup. The last thing a defeated semi-finalist wants is to play a third-place game for no extra money or prestige.
But third-place games do sell tickets and attract attention. Belgium’s victory over England in the 2018 third-place game was seen by boss Roberto Martinez as part of his squad’s development. It’s another opportunity to play under pressure with the eyes of the world watching, so the optimistic logic goes.
And there is certainly history behind this fixture – as unwanted as many of us feel it is. RadioTimes.com brings you everything you need to know about the World Cup third place play-off…
How the World Cup third place play-off works
The World Cup third place play-off pits the two defeated semi-finalists together to determine who is the third-best team at a World Cup.
It may sound like some sort of modern, Americanised blemish on the beautiful game, something that exists purely to make money and keep sponsors happy, but in fact the World Cup third place play-off has been around for some time – 88 years to be exact.
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The first third place game was staged at the 1934 World Cup in Italy. Neighbours Germany and Austria went toe-to-toe in Naples after losing their respective semi-finals to Czechoslovakia and Italy. Germany won the game 3-2 and were three goals to the good just 27 minutes into the contest.
Since then, the World Cup third place game has taken place usually on the day before the final. The two defeated semi-finalists use the same squads and have the same number of substitutions as in any other World Cup game, while suspensions also count here.
World Cup third place record
There have been 20 World Cup third-place games since the first in 1934, and just 17 teams who have competed in it. Of these 17 teams, England have the second-worst record in World Cup third place games, with a W0 L2 record. Only Uruguay (W0 L3) have fared worse in this match.
The third place record is as follows:
- Germany W3 L2
- Brazil W2 L2
- Sweden W2 L1
- France W2 L1
- Poland W2 L0
- Austria W1 L1
- Portugal W1 L1
- Italy W1 L1
- Belgium W1 L1
- Chile W1 L0
- Croatia W1 L0
- Turkey W1 L0
- Spain W0 L1
- Bulgaria W0 L1
- South Korea W0 L1
- England W0 L2
- Uruguay W0 L3
England’s World Cup third place games
England have reached the World Cup semi-finals on three occasions, but only once progressed to the final. That happened in 1966 thanks to two goals from Bobby Charlton that got the Three Lions past Portugal 2-1 at Wembley.
England were forced to play the third place game in 1990 after losing the Italia ‘90 semi-final to Germany in excruciating circumstances. A distraught team lost 2-1 to hosts Italy in Bari, where Salvatore Schillaci scored an 86th-minute winner from the penalty spot.
28 years later and England were back in an unwanted third-place game after losing to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final in Russia. Up against Belgium’s Golden Generation, a lacklustre England limped to a 2-0 defeat in which they laboured to break down the Belgian defence.
Where is the 2022 World Cup third place play-off?
This winter, the World Cup third place game takes place in the 45,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. The game kicks off at 3pm UK time on Saturday 17th December.
Check out our World Cup hub for all the latest from Qatar 2022, including match previews, predictions and analysis.