World Cup Recap: Third Place

Belgium takes bronze with 2-0 win over England

Belgium takes bronze with 2-0 win over England
The World Cup is down to one game. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The third place match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup took place on Saturday. Belgium and England, the two teams who advanced out of Group G, faced off for the bronze medal.

Belgium 2-0 England

Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg
Attendance: 64,406

After feeling out of the game in the opening minutes, Belgium connected on a counter attack to take the lead just four minutes in. Thomas Meunier was the goalscorer that gave Belgium leverage. England generated opportunities to get back in the match but their struggle was to get quality shots on target. Maguire did not get enough power to his header on a corner in the 20th minute while Kane was less than clinical on a 23rd minute opportunity. Belgium and England were about even on first half opportunities, with the goal being the difference.

England’s better opportunities in the second half came through the air but would struggle to find the target. The Three Lions were the more proactive side, understandably so given the deficit. In the end, quality was the answer and Eden Hazard iced the match with Belgium’s second goal in the 82nd minute.

Belgium records highest World Cup finish

After missing out on the final, this is a positive for Belgium. It’s a consolation prize for a talented side that feels they could have had a better finish to this tournament. Even so, the history books will show that this was the most successful side at a FIFA World Cup. It will be interesting to see if Vincent Kompany calls it a career with the national team - what would be the international retirement of a legend. The next focus for this team will be the European Championship in two years.

England finishes fourth, matching their counterparts at Italy 1990

England would have liked to have taken third place but it really would not have made a difference. What this English side did do, however, is regain confidence in the national side. Hopes of a World Cup would not be so farfetched now - if approached correctly. This young side will gain experience and Euro 2020 will be a great test to see their growth ahead of the next World Cup, Qatar 2022.

Notable stat: Thomas Meunier is Belgium’s 10th different goalscorer, matching the record for number of scorers by a single team in a single edition of the tournament.

Programming notes:

Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis will be broadcasting from The Gorgeous Gael (5555 Morningside Dr. Houston, TX 77005) with a two-hour LIVE show, airing on ESPN 97.5 FM, following the 2018 FIFA World Cup final.

2018 FIFA World Cup Final (All Times CT):

Sunday, July 15

10 a.m. - France vs. Croatia (FOX, Telemundo)

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More changes are coming in MLB. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.

Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.

The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.

“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”

With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.

“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”

Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.

A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.

MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.

“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”

Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.

Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.

“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”

While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.

“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”

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