Is bronze worth it?

Mem­bers of English side dis­agree on play­ing in the third-place game

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS - BY JAMES ELLINGWORTH

Eng­land de­fender Kyle Walker is find­ing mean­ing in the game no one wants to play.

The third-place match at the World Cup is of­ten dis­missed as a point­less way for FIFA to fill TV space with two teams who just want to go home. But for Walker, a bronze medal still has value.

“It’s still some­thing mas­sively to play for, to be the third-best team in the world,” Walker said af­ter Wed­nes­day’s semi­fi­nal loss to Croa­tia. “Who would have thought it, at the start of the tour­na­ment when ev­ery­one was writ­ing us off?

“We’ve still got a very im­por­tant job come Satur­day to go and beat the Bel­gians and get the brag­ging rights over them be­cause they beat us in the group stage.”

Eng­land and Bel­gium have both pro­duced last-gasp vic­to­ries at the World Cup - Bel­gium beat­ing Ja­pan 3-2, Eng­land beat­ing Colom­bia on penal­ties - but their two games to­gether lack sig­nif­i­cance.

Both had al­ready qual­i­fied for the round of 16 when Bel­gium beat Eng­land 1-0 in the last game of the group stage on Ad­nan Januzaj’s curl­ing shot in a game likened to a friendly thanks to 17 lineup changes.

Much of the talk was about whether fin­ish­ing first or sec­ond in Group G would open up eas­ier games. In the end, it meant lit­tle as both ad­vanced to the semi­fi­nals.

Not ev­ery­one seems as en­thu­si­as­tic as Walker.

Harry Kane, the lead­ing scorer at the World Cup with six goals, said he isn’t mo­ti­vated by the chance to se­cure the Golden Boot for top scorer in the third­place game.

“It’s not some­thing I’m re­ally think­ing about,” he said. “It’s not the game we wanted to be in, as a team. It is what it is, but we’ll try and play that game with as much pride as a team as try and fin­ish on a high. We’re still go­ing to be hurt­ing.”

PREMIER LEAGUE TEAM­MATES

Even if the re­sult is quickly for­got­ten by the fans, it will be re­mem­bered in Premier League locker rooms.

Five Premier League clubs have play­ers on both sides of the game. Walker can face Manch­ester City team­mates Vin­cent Kom­pany and Kevin de Bruyne, while Tot­ten­ham boasts three play­ers for Bel­gium and five for Eng­land.

Liver­pool, Manch­ester United and Chelsea are the other three clubs rep­re­sented in both squads.

HIS­TORY

A third-place game can still be ex­cit­ing.

Ger­many over­turned a 2-1 deficit to beat Uruguay 3-2 in the 2010 game as Diego For­lan sent a free kick off the cross­bar in the last minute.

How­ever, many third-place games have been one-sided, like the Nether­lands’ 3-0 vic­tory over Brazil in 2014, or a source of trivia, like Turkey’s 3-2 win over South Korea in 2002.

That game is best known for Turkey for­ward Hakan Sukur scor­ing the fastest World Cup goal in his­tory, need­ing only 11 sec­onds to make it 1-0.

AP PHOTO

Eng­land’s Kyle Walker eyes the ball dur­ing the semi­fi­nal match against Croa­tia at the 2018 soc­cer World Cup in Moscow, Rus­sia, Wed­nes­day.

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