England and Belgium will take to the World Cup stage in Russia for the final time on Saturday afternoon in the cruellest game of the tournament.
The beaten semi-finalists will battle it out in St Petersburg for the honour of finishing in third place, but will there be anything other than pride at stake?
Here, FP takes a look at previous play-off games and how the participants have fared at the next finals.
There have been 18 third-place play-off ties at the World Cup, the first in the second tournament in Italy in 1934, but no fixture at the post-war 1950 finals in Brazil. Germany have appeared in five and won four of them, twice – in 1970 and 2010 – on both occasions going on to lift the trophy four years later.
England’s performances with a young squad in Russia have given rise to optimism that they will be even better when the world’s best reconvene in 2022, but history suggests that is by no means a foregone conclusion. Six sides to have finished third – France in 1958 and 1986, Portugal in 1966, Sweden in 1994, Turkey in 2002 and Holland four years ago – have not qualified for the next finals, while fourth-placed Austria in 1934, Uruguay 20 years later, Yugoslavia in 1962, England in 1990 and the Dutch at the next finals suffered the same fate.
But the good news is…
Germany’s successes in 1970 and 2010 four years after losing in the semi-finalists are not the only occasions on which a team has built upon a near-miss. Brazil, who beat Sweden 4-2 in 1938, finished as runners-up to Uruguay when the event was next staged in 1950 with the Swedes third in a round-robin final round, while Italy lifted the trophy in 1982 after losing to Brazil four years earlier and, following victory over England in 1990, made it to the next final, where they lost to Brazil on penalties.
Uruguay may have lifted the World Cup on two occasions, but their track record after only just missing out on a place in the final is less impressive. They have appeared in the third-place match on three occasions and lost each time – 3-1 to Austria in 1954, 1-0 to Germany in 1970 and 3-2 to the same opposition in 2010.
The third-place match has three times provided the hosts with a little solace, with Chile in 1962, Italy in 1990 and Germany in 2006 signing off with victories, although South Korea and Brazil suffered further disappointments in 2002 and 2014 respectively.
Form guide 2018
England and Belgium have both appeared in the penultimate match of the finals on only one occasion. Bobby Robson’s men lost 2-1 to hosts Italy in Bari in 1990, with Roberto Baggio and Toto Schillaci on target either side of David Platt’s equaliser, while four years earlier, Guy Thys’ Belgium suffered the agony of a 4-2 extra-time defeat by France.
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