World Cup 2022 third-place play-off will not be a pointless game

December 17, 2022 - 07:52
With Croatia and Morocco meeting up again at Khalifa International Stadium tonight, I’m excited about what this year’s third-place game will bring to us.
Both Croatia and Morocco have incentives to treat the match seriously. AFP Photo

Nguyễn Thu Hương

The excitement is mounting up as World Cup final draws ever closer.

France have Mbappe and Argentina Messi, two of the greatest players in the world, but who will be smiling on Sunday evening?

Football fans across the globe will be glued to their TVs for the great battle that awaits us. But before the match, there’s another game that no one really wants to play – the third-place play-off.

There have been many arguments on whether or not this fixture should stay. UEFA eliminated the third-place match after EURO 1980, witnessing the lack of ratings and attention for this game. FIFA, on the other hand, while they introduced many new ideas in Qatar, remained traditional when it comes to this match.

In the World Cup’s history of 22 tournaments, the play-off didn’t take place only twice, in 1930 and 1950.

Many might remember what Netherlands’ head coach Louis Van Gaal said back in 2014, before the Dutch defeated the hosts Brazil in their third-place match:

“And a tournament in which you’ve played so marvelously well you would go home as a loser just because you could possibly have lost the last two matches and this has got nothing to do with sports in my view.”

Nguyễn Thu Hương

Personally I couldn’t agree more with him at that time. It was just a few days after failing to reach the biggest match the players had to play in a game that its winner’s name would easily slip out of people’s minds.

It might be too much emotionally and physically for those who were still dealing with sorrows of failure.

And it was inevitable that one team would end up losing two games in a row, despite how well they had been.

For some teams, especially big names, the third-place match has little of importance. It is usually an ideal time to give young or substitute players some minutes on the world’s largest stage. When the pressure is relieved, two sides are more likely to perform an open and entertaining game with many goals.

However, with Croatia and Morocco meeting up again at Khalifa International Stadium tonight, I’m excited about what this year’s third-place game will bring to us.

Aged 37, Croatia’s legend Luka Modric will play his last ever World Cup match. His brilliant performances during this tournament amazed everyone and it will definitely not be a big surprise if Modric and his teammates bring their best for a farewell win. One last show!

Morocco is still making history. One more win and the Atlas lions will become the first African team to come third in a World Cup.

Even more than that, the play-off’s audience might not be only football fans and the team’s supporters but also scouting teams from clubs.

There has been talks and rumours about big clubs interest in Morroco’s Amrabat, Ounahi and Cheddira who are currently playing in unpopular teams. As the transfer window is getting closer, is there a better chance to make a firm impression?

With these incentives, Croatia and Morocco will treat their third-place match differently. If so, no longer a goalless tie as they gave in the group round but can we expect a flawless match with excitement? I sure hope so. VNS