World Cup Recap: Third Place

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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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