England, Belgium both see value in third-place World Cup finish.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — How do you stay motivated for the game no one wants to play? England and Belgium have different answers.
After both lost their World Cup semifinals, the teams have to play again in today’s third-place game.
As always with English soccer, coach Gareth Southgate and his players are looking back to the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. Beating Belgium today would give England its best World Cup finish since then, surpassing fourth place in Italy in 1990.
“We have a chance to win a medal at a World Cup, which only one English team has ever done, so there’s a lot of motivation for us,” Southgate said Friday. After exceeding expectations by reaching the semifinal, only to lose 2-1 to Croatia in extra time, England wants to keep its positive buzz.
“We’ve raised expectation, and I don’t see a problem with that because we’ve also raised belief,” Southgate said. “We’ve raised their enjoyment of playing. They now associated playing for England with enjoyment, fun, and not being under siege.”
For Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, it’s about leaving Russia with a warm feeling and playing attractive football to inspire the next generation: “We want to win. When you finish a tournament, you carry the feeling of the last game. … Every Belgian fan deserves that winning feeling. For us, the way you play is essential, not just for this tournament but for future generations.”
Third would be Belgium’s best World Cup performance. It finished fourth in 1986.
Watch those socks
FIFA fined Croatia and Sweden $49,990 each for players wearing nonapproved socks in games against England. Croatia faces France in Sunday’s final. Sweden also was previously fined $69,800 for several players wearing unapproved socks. PREMIER LEAGUE: Chelsea fired manager Antonio Conte after a two-year tenure in which he won the league title and the FA Cup. After winning the league in his first season, Conte failed to get his preferred signings last summer and Chelsea finished fifth — 30 points behind champion Man- chester City — and was eliminated from the last 16 of the Champions League. Chelsea also missed out on Champions League qualification for next season, but it did win the FA Cup.
From left, England’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dele Alli, Harry Kane and, front, Fabian Delph stay loose at practice the day before their third-place World Cup game against Belgium.