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It's Time For FIFA to Banish The Third Place Play-Off Game

 It's Time For FIFA to Banish The Third Place Play Off Game

Sorry traditionalists, but it’s time for FIFA to abandon the Third Place Play-Off Game at future World Cup tournaments.

The concept of pitting the two losing semi-finalists against each other to determine who gets the bronze medal is an antiquated idea. Not only is it an idea from the past that has long outlived its use, but it’s also a waste of time for everyone involved from the players – who don’t want to get injured and don’t really care about winning – to the fans – who are not really interested in the game – and to FIFA, who only presumably carry on the tradition in hopes of carving out more revenue to add to their stockpile of cash.

In the eight consecutive World Cup tournaments I’ve watched since 1978, I’ve only watched the Third Place Play-Off Game approximately two to three times. Once was out of pure boredom when there was nothing else on television. Another time was out of curiosity. Even when England played in the Third Place Final game in 1990, I decided not to watch the game because it’s completely meaningless. I mean, does anyone remember who were the third place teams in the recent World Cup tournaments? Does anyone even care?

If the Third Place Final game does serve any purpose, it’s a way for countries to thank their supporters for cheering them on in the World Cup. And for the fans to thank their players. But that could easily be done on a victory bus tour throughout the country’s capital city.

In the competitive landscape of club football, the last thing a world-class player wants to do is to play another meaningless game. After exiting from the World Cup, the players should be sent home so they have time to relax and recover before their club season starts again. They don’t need to play one more game where they could get injured or worn out.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

32 Responses to It's Time For FIFA to Banish The Third Place Play-Off Game

  1. eplnfl says:

    Chris: you right on it all, but and I deserve the abuse on it since I often complain of tradition bound English football, but I like the third place game. A third place game used to be part of many American sports. I’m old enough to have seen a third place game in the NFL(barely) and the NCAA basketball tournament ( when I was in college) and always enjoyed it. After a long season or a long tournament the fan wants just a little more before giving things up for a year or even worse 4 years. Also, if you team lost in the semi-finals it’s a crushing experience for the fan but a third place game gives you something to hang your hat on and gives you hope or some sense of achievement.

    It’s emotion I know but keep the game.

  2. Simon Burke says:

    I think its a total waste of a game but one man who will be up for it will
    be Klose…
    I’d keep it as its not harming anyone and some people enjoy watching it.

  3. Aaron says:

    Read the book Soccernomics. The 3rd place match actually gets very good tv ratings and will not be going anywhere. Maybe it is meaningless but a lot of people still watch it.

  4. Jay says:

    Your victory tour celebration is a good idea, except if you support a National team not from your country. Then I think you would prefer a third place game.

    I know I am looking forward to see Germany one more time before Euro 2012.

  5. Marlon says:

    I agree that third place game it’s kind of frustrated, but looking the last WCs, this game is usually as good as or even better than the final game. In this year, in particular, we have a great game, cause I believe that Uruguay is very excited to play and finish the WC with a victory.

  6. Nate S says:

    Honestly, if it means more World cup football, why would you want anything different?

  7. Branden says:

    Obviously you haven’t been paying attention to Forlan. Ever since Uruguay lost he’s been talking about how important finishing 3rd will be to him, and his country.

  8. JD says:

    Seems to me that players from both Uruguay and Germany have expressed a desire to finish strong. And after the run that Germany has made this year, they’ve got new fans all over the world that look forward to watching them again.

    It’s hardly “meaningless” to guys on either team who will play their last game for their country this weekend.

  9. RobG4 says:

    Totally disagree.

    I enjoy the 3rd place game and am looking forward to it for a number of reasons.

    -This one (like the last one) will include a fun-to-watch German side. It could be more fun to watch than the final.
    -I believe with the pressure off, Uruguay will open up and attack.
    -It’s a World Cup match. I’m already going through withdrawal. I’ll take as many as I can get before it ends.
    -Ask the players whether it is meaningless. I believe of the teams that are left, all four are populated by players who give it all for their national teams. Perhaps an English side would give up on the 3rd place game (heck they can’t even get it up for a group game), but Germany & Uruguay will be going for the win.

    The author claims to have only watched a couple of 3rd place games in 32 years, so how can he be any authority on the quality of the games.

    If you had watched the Spain/Germany semifinal, and someone had told you it was the 3rd place game, you would have turned it off at the half.

    The last three 3rd place matches have seen 4,5,and 3 goals scored respectively.

    They are open, attacking, goal-rich games where the players play for pride and country and without the panic inducing terror of the final match.

    ‘m looking forward to the 3rd Place game.

  10. jose says:

    im playing in the semis of the world cup and just finished losing, im heartbroken and now i gotta play a 3rd place game, come on man.

  11. Jason Gatties says:

    Maybe we should just do away with most of the FA Cup and just kick it off with the 2nd round proper as well.

  12. EastTerracer says:

    Gaffer, if you haven’t watched the 3rd place games then how can you judge them?

    It’s pretty obvious that you’ve been trying to provoke a fight on here for the last few days so I can only assume that this is because your precious EPL (sic) is being shown up as not quite the centre of excellence you would have us believe. Despite the huge numbers of foreign players in the Premier League only 3 of the 44 players who started the semi-finals this week play their football in England.

    Yesterday’s attempt to cause a row by labeling Spain as boring was utterly ridiculous as well. You really need to cheer up a bit and enjoy the remaining two games in the World Cup.

    • The Gaffer says:

      EastTerracer, when was the last third place play-off game that was entertaining?

      Not trying to provoke a fight at all. Just expressing my opinions.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • EastTerracer says:

        Turkey 3- South Korea 2 in 2002 was a very good and enjoyable match.

        I also watched from Berlin when Germany beat Portugal 3-1 in 2006 and again it was a very entertaining game. It was certainly a far better match than the final the following day.

        In the 90s there were a couple of poor games (Italy-England for example) but it’s really not fair to make generalisations when the recent games have been quite good.

  13. Kevin says:

    I think the 3rd place game has been great fun in the last few world cups. The players seem up for it and the lack of pressure leads to an open match. I can’t imagine anyone arguing for less World Cup soccer. After this weekend we have to wait something like 1,430 days until the next world cup so yeah, I’ll take a Uruguay/Germany match.

    No one is forcing you to watch Gaffer (as evidenced by your rarely watching the 3rd place games anyway), so why the fuss?

    • The Gaffer says:

      No fuss, just expressing my opinion. But I’ve had a few people twist my arm and say that they want to watch the third place play-off game with me, so I may end up going to Wowies to watch it after all.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  14. Amorto says:

    Totally disagree. I like the third place game as it gives at least one of the losing semi finalists the opportunity to go out on a high as well as whetting the appetite for the final itself. This years game has added significance as the Golden boot will be decided with Sneijder & Villa on five goals, Klose, Forlan & Müller on four! Then again I can imagine major arguments if Sneijder wins the boot with the Brazillian own goal FIFA awarded him!

  15. jon says:

    TO EAST TERRACER……YOU MENTIONED ONLY 3 PLAYERS WHO STARTED THE SEMI FINALS PLAY IN THE EPL KUYT AND VAN PERSIE WHO IS THE 3RD?

  16. Pakapala says:

    I do remember the last 4 3rd place games; reason being in most cases, they ended up being more entertaining than the final.
    What I can’t understand is how someone who admit to avoid watching the 3rd place games (except a couple times out of boredom) can then claim to know that the players don’t take that game seriously? How also can you claim that the games don’t matter to the fans when you have no interest to even research to see if it matters.

    reasons why the 3rd place game matters and why I watch:
    1) the old bragging rights of fans. Sure in the end neutral fans will mostly remember the champions and to a lesser extent the 2nd place team; however fans rooting for the countries in questions might look back and brag about finishing 3rd rather than 4th.
    2) Money! money! money! If for no other reason than receiving $2 million more than the 4th place.
    3) Some times, this game ends up being more fun to watch than the final.

  17. Pakapala says:

    taken from the news headline World Cup 2010 – Octopus Paul backs Spain to lift trophy on Yahoo eurosport website

    “Earlier on Friday, Germans heaved a sigh of relief when Paul tipped Germany to beat Uruguay in the World Cup match for third place. There were cheers in offices across Germany after crowds of viewers tuned in to watch Paul live.”

    source:
    http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/09072010/58/world-cup-2010-octopus-paul-backs-spain-lift-trophy.html

    Gaffer,
    You still think that you can speak for everyone when you claim that fans don’t care about the 3rd place games in World Cup?

    • The Gaffer says:

      Pakapala, I don’t speak for everyone. I just think, personally, that the third place game is a waste of time and rather meaningless. Yes, some people care. But most of the players don’t. And most of the journalists don’t either.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • TR1 says:

        Gaffer,

        I don’t know why you think “most of the players” don’t.

        “The day before their third-place tilt, Germany and Uruguay both said that they’re taking very seriously what is often considered a low-pressure opening act for the final. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez went so far as to say that his squad will “fight to the death” on Saturday. His German counterpart Joachim Loew also said that his side will be approaching the match looking to win, suggesting that Die Mannschaft’s morale needs lifting after Wednesday’s 1-0 semifinal loss to Spain.”

        For Uruguay in particular, beating Germany and taking that scalp, as well as having “3rd” for the history books will mean a lot.

        You seem to be either disheartened by the English performance or perhaps more a fan of club football. I think the third place game is interesting because it is a game you can’t lose if you thought you should have been in the final, but winning it does not mean as much either. Brings it’s own strange urgency. Also serves as a nice appetizer to the final. I am sure some tired players may want to just go home, but I would think they would be about the only ones.

  18. Pakapala says:

    I will agree that most people in the media don’t care, but having watch most 3rd place games since 1986, I have to say that the players care a little bit more than you might think. Germany wanted to win that game in 2006, both South Korea and Turkey went all out in 2002, Croatia and Netherlands in 1998 I remember as a great game, France and Belgium battling it out in 1986.

  19. Carolyn says:

    The game is only meaningless if the teams playing in it believe it is meaningless. The last two 3rd place games I’ve watched were both entertaining. This year, there are incentives for players to try and win the Golden Boot and the Young Player of the Tournament awards. For the teams involved it also means bragging rights, if they win, that they were the 3rd placed team in the World Cup of 2010.

    For a soccer junkie like myself I’d much rather watch this match with top class players than some of the crappy games that come along during the regular season in the EPL, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga.

  20. James says:

    I agree that the 3rd place game should be eliminated. For one of the four teams who makes the final four of the World Cup to then wind up losing two games in a row is just not right. There’s nothing wrong with two teams winding up tied for 3rd place.

  21. Stacy Richardson says:

    Maybe the quarterfinal losers should play off 5th through 8th places as well, to fill in two of the “off” days: two games on the Monday before the first semi-final, and the fifth and seventh place games on the day before the third-place game. I say that because the “off” days just kill me!

  22. andy says:

    3rd place is meaningless, here’s why: in a single elimination bracket the whole bracket focuses on the winner moving on. Because each team only plays a few others, how can we know that 3rd place is actually going to the 3rd best team?? Maybe Brazil should be playing in that match instead of germany or uraguay, as brazil only lost 1 match as well, and that was to the dutch, same as uruguay.
    Of course, this also means that the final loser is not necessarily 2nd place either….
    3rd place game is as meaningless as a losers bracket at all, only for tradition and fans….but I will enjoy seeing Germany rebound from their paralyzed play against spain…like a deer in the headlights.

    • TR1 says:

      Good point. One way to look at it is that if you are good enough to be a semi-finalist, you are looking at 4 great teams. For the viewing world, this gives them another chance to see a quality match, and it tells you something more about the final four, although not the whole story as you would have to have a group stage round-robin, but it is better than no game.

  23. amorto says:

    “Yes, some people care. But most of the players don’t. And most of the journalists don’t either”
    I really don’t know where you get this idea from about the players not caring as Germany & Uruguay certainly cared tonight & did you see Klose’s face on the bench? He would have killed to be on the pitch.

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