FIFA World Cup Third Place Betting Preview And Free Pick

Soccer can be a cruel game. Arguably the cruelest part of it is the fact that the two teams that lose in the World Cup semi-finals have to play another match to decide third place in the tournament. After both suffered a heart-breaking loss in the semi-finals, England and Belgium will have that honor this Saturday. Let's take a closer look at the two sides set to battle it out for third place at the 2018 World Cup.

How They Got Here

England overcame history and surpassed expectations on its way to the third place match. Despite a loss to Belgium earlier in the tournament, they breezed through the group stage before putting their historic failures with penalty kicks behind them against Colombia. The Three Lions then had a convincing win over Sweden in the quarterfinals. But after taking an early lead against Croatia in the semi-finals, England couldn't hold on and eventually fell in extra time, ending their hopes of bringing the World Cup trophy back to the country where soccer was invented.

Meanwhile, Belgium won their first five games of the tournament, knocking off Panama, Tunisia, and England during the group stage. The Red Devils then pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in World Cup history in the Round of 16, overcoming a 2-0 deficit against Japan. Belgium then toppled mighty Brazil in the quarterfinals, leading many to believe they could go on to win the tournament. Alas, the Red Devils were stopped in their tracks against France, who was able to stonewall Belgium's talented attacking players.

What They Do

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has shown a willingness to change tactics and formations throughout the tournament, and for the most part, he has pushed all the right buttons. Of course, in a rather meaningless third-place game, Martinez is unlikely to over-think things. In fact, he's likely to sit many of his starters and give playing time to some of the players who have rarely seen the field outside of a rather meaningless game against England during the group stage.

England is also likely to make some changes to its lineup. However, the Three Lions have remained committed to the same style of play throughout the tournament, so personnel changes won't alter how they play. Another thing that is unlikely to change regardless of who takes the field is England's prowess on set pieces, which has carried them throughout the tournament.

Who To Watch

For England, the player to watch is captain Harry Kane. There's a very real chance he sits out Saturday's match with nothing on the line. However, he's the tournament's leading goal scorer, so he may want to get one or two more just to ensure he wins the Golden Boot.

For Belgium, the player to watch may be Michy Batshuayi. He hasn't played much in this tournament, but there's a good chance he's the starting striker on Saturday. Batshuayi has struggled to score goals against English defenders in the Premier League the past couple of seasons, so he may feel like he has something to prove in a glorified exhibition game.

Prediction

Traditionally, third-place games at the World Cup are high-scoring affairs as both teams are free from the pressure of the tournament. That will allow both teams to play free and loose, but with England likely being the more motivated side, they will have the upper hand. England wins 4-2.