FIFA World Cup 2018: A look at what to expect in the third place play-off between Belgium and England at Saint Petersburg

How do you stay motivated for the game no one wants to play? England and Belgium have different answers.

After both were eliminated in the World Cup semi-finals, a once-in-a-lifetime chance gone, the teams have to play again in Saturday's third-place game at Saint Petersburg.

As always in English football, coach Gareth Southgate and his men are looking back to the England team which won the World Cup in 1966. Beating Belgium on Saturday would give England their best World Cup finish since then, surpassing fourth place in Italy in 1990.

Here’s a look at what you can expect on Saturday at the World Cup in Russia:

Play-off for third place at Saint Petersburg Stadium: Belgium vs England, 7.30 pm IST

Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez will have a task keeping their sides motivated for the third-place playoff. AFP

Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez will have a task keeping their sides motivated for the third-place play-off. AFP

Southgate and Belgium coach Roberto Martinez are looking for ways to motivate their squads for the third-place match. For Southgate, it's about continuing the maturation of his young England side, which exceeded expectations by getting this far and even had the lead on Croatia for much of their semi-final before falling in gutting fashion on an extra-time goal.

Securing England's second-best finish at the tournament would be nothing to sneeze at, either, said Southgate, who wore the England shirt himself and never reached the title game. For Martinez, it's about salvaging "that winning feeling" despite the disappointment among players and fans of a team that had been a fashionable pick to win it all until they failed to score against France. Those sales pitches will be tested by the product on the field, but also by how many fans show up and tune it to watch what historically has been a lacklustre prelude to the final.

Third place would be Belgium's best-ever World Cup performance. They finished fourth in 1986 after losing the play-off 4-2 in extra time to France.

Both coaches have one eye on fitness for what will be each team's seventh game in 26 days.

Southgate said he wants to make "as few changes as possible," but may need to switch some players due to injury and illness. He wouldn't confirm whether he'd give either of his reserve goalkeepers, Jack Butland and Nick Pope, their first game of the tournament in place of Jordan Pickford.

It's the second meeting of the tournament for the two teams.

Their first game, in the group stage, was treated almost like a friendly since both teams had already qualified and made a total 17 changes to the line-up. Belgium won that encounter in Kaliningrad 1-0 thanks to a curled shot from Adnan Januzaj.

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. Kyle Walker can face Manchester City teammates Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne, while Tottenham boast three players for Belgium and five for England.

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

Politics, Politics

Leaders of several of the European nations that made it to the knockout stage have had a few good-natured exchanges over their teams' encounters. Now the politics are getting as serious as the football.

British leaders have essentially boycotted the World Cup over the poisonings of two British citizens and a former Russian spy and his daughter living in the United Kingdom, which British officials blame on the Russian government, a claim the Kremlin rejects. FIFA typically has enough trouble policing its stance on keeping politics out of the tournament, but for the next 48 hours, the two will be tough to disentangle.

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Click here to view the full schedule of FIFA World Cup 2018 

With inputs from AP


Updated Date: Jul 14, 2018 11:47 AM

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