Con-Fed-Up-Cup: Making a case for the 3rd place play-off

The 3rd placed play-off is widely considered the most pointless game in football. All the losing semi-finalists want to do is get the next plane home and get on their holiday after a hard defeat to take. Believe it or not, there are some positives with this game so is it really as bad as people say it is?

In both FIFA competitions, World Cup and Confederations Cup, a 3rd place play-off is held the day before the final (usually on a Saturday) and consists of the two losing semi-finalists. The match decides the ranking of the teams at the tournament so the losing team in the 3rd place play-off will mean finishing 4th. The game makes complete sense in the Olympics but does it really have a place in the modern game?

The play-off was introduced to fill the gap between the semi-finals and the final but is usually held in a smaller stadium because crowds don’t flock to see a 3rd place play-off. A prime example of an unnecessary play-off was at the last World Cup where Brazil had just been thumped 7-1 by Germany at their own World Cup and were mentally and physical broken. It made no sense to play once again in front of the fans they let down so badly just a few days before. They ended up losing the game to the Netherlands by a 3-goal margin and it wasn’t much of a spectacle with most players just wanting to get away from it all.

However, the game does take some significance in other situations and is valued for highly in the women’s game. Go back 2 years and most people in this country will remember England’s run in the 2015 Women’s World Cup as they were knocked-out in devastating fashion by Japan after Laura Bassett put into her own net with just seconds remaining. They would have to contest the 3rd place play-off against Germany, arguably the best European side in the tournament, and England were big underdogs. Fara Williams’ penalty meant that England won 1-0 and deservedly celebrated a fantastic 3rd place and got a bronze medal to commemorate their achievements. So, it’s not all bad.

I can just about understand a play-off in any form of World Cup but in the Confed Cup it just doesn’t make sense. Judging by the size of the crowds at the games so far in Russia, I can safely say it won’t be a sell-out. Portugal and Mexico, who have already played each other at the tournament, will contest the game but Cristiano Ronaldo won’t. He left Russia to meet up with his new-born twins and if Portugal do get their hands on those bronze medals, I don’t think Ronaldo will be impatient waiting for it to drop on the mat of his front door.