Jill Scott for example, one of England’s outstanding midfielders here at Canada 2015, when I asked her if it was fair to ask teams that have been beaten in a semi-final at a World Cup to then have to slug it out against one another replied: “Probably not.”
Also the sparkle had gone out her when talking about the game; she kept on reminding me she was a professional and it’s her job. I commend her for that and quite right too, but the joy had gone out of her voice.
The statement coming up is not my opinion, but anyone reading this, just ask yourself the question – ‘what’s the point of a third-fourth place play-off match at a World Cup?’ It actually could stimulate a great debate. There are pros and cons.
For the Olympics, you need a champion who are the gold medallists, the runners-up who get the silver medal and of course being the Olympics someone must get the bronze and someone has to always come fourth and leave with nothing, so it makes sense. (Olympic aficionados among you will now point out that in Olympic boxing, you don’t get a third place play-off, both losing semi-finalists get a bronze medal each!)
The World Cup, however, has never been about winning a gold, silver or bronze medal. It’s about winning the World Cup itself. So why have a game to decide who comes third? The losing quarter-finalists don’t play each other to decide who’s fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth best in the world. On top of that, is it right to ask players who are shattered, both physically and mentally to have to perform when not at their best? Football we must not forget is in the entertainment business.
What are the pros then for a third place play-off here at Canada 2015? I’m struggling to be honest! As I wrote earlier, the feeling around Edmonton towards the World Cup is flat, it’s gone, it’s over. On paper though we do have a cracking match.
Germany, the European champions and No.1 ranked side in the world against, I suppose in many people’s eyes here, the surprise package in England. The control they have had in every game bar their first group match against France has been admirable. Even now England’s Head Coach Mark Sampson can’t quite believe how his side lost to Japan, telling me; “it’s just a rubbish result.”
Back to why a third place play-off game is good idea though… errr, yes, I’ve remembered now, England have the chance to send a message here. Lots of plaudits have come their way, but if they beat Germany they will become the first England women’s side to do that. They will also show the world how far they have come in the eight months since Germany taught them a footballing lesson at Wembley when they beat Sampson’s side 3-0. Germany are still ranked No.1 in the FIFA rankings.
Germany are emotionally and physically drained as well as England yet they have more than a ‘bronze’ medal to play for. Rarely does a German side lose two games in a row and their coach, Silvia Neid who is regarded as one of the finest coaches ever to have graced the women’s game, may well step down after this World Cup. Also would they really like the tag of the best European nation at Canada 2015 to be given to England?
It’s a very strange match. They’re both actually losers which sounds unfair, but it is a game between 2 losing semi-finalists. On the other hand Germany will want to be No 1 in Europe, no political pun intended while England haven’t beaten a side at this World Cup who are ranked higher than themselves. Mexico 25th, Colombia 28th, Norway 11th and Canada eighth. France are ranked third with Japan fifth, a place above England.
So if Mark Sampson’s side really want to make a statement to world football. Easy, go beat the Germans.