World Cup doubles: Our tips for the third-place play-off and final
Our tips for the last two games of the tournament feature a high-scoring match between Belgium and England, and joy for France.
Belgium to win –
With a day less to recovery than their opponents, England could struggle to pick themselves up from semi-final defeat in time to seriously compete.
The Three Lions are unlikely to take any risks with injury doubts – Jordan Henderson and Ashley Young could miss out – and have not done enough in the competition to suggest that they can beat this class of opposition.
Belgium, who won the Group G dead rubber between these sides a fortnight ago, will win this match if they come close to replicating their good performance against France in the semi-final.
France to win –
A repeat of the solid defensive performance against Belgium in the semi-final should see France crowned world champions come Sunday evening.
Didier Deschamps’ side have kept clean sheets in four of their last five matches at this competition, including in the last eight and last four, with Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti forming a formidable partnership in the centre of defence.
It has taken Croatia at least 45 minutes to get going in all of their knockout matches, and another slow start is unlikely to go unpunished against a side that won’t give away many chances.
Belgium v England: Yes –
Both teams have scored in eight of the last 10 World Cup third-place play-offs, with one team scoring at least three goals in seven of them.
And given that both Belgium and England have kept just one clean sheet in six matches in Russia, that run is likely to extend.
Roberto Martinez’s second string kept out the Three Lions’ reserves in the group stages, but the return of two first-choice attacks should expose both flaky defences.
France v Croatia: No –
That strong French defence is what makes this bet likely to come in.
Didier Deschamps’ side have only conceded to Argentina since their opening 2-1 victory over Australia, with Varane and Umtiti an impressive duo.
Croatia have not come up against such a good backline in this competition, and will have to improve if they are to find the net.
ANYTIME GOALSCORER DOUBLE
Eden Hazard –
In what is likely to be an open game, Hazard is the safest bet to score.
The 27-year-old was Belgium’s best player against France on Tuesday, and can take advantage of an England defence that has been vulnerable throughout the competition, let alone now that it is compromised by injury and fatigue.
He is also Roberto Martinez’s penalty-taker.
Kylian Mbappe –
Mbappe’s pace was a constant threat to Belgium in the semi-finals, and could prove even more potent against a tired defence that lacks pace.
The 20-year-old has scored three goals in Russia, with his performances making him the big favourite to win the Golden Ball after Sunday’s final.
He has risen to every occasion since breaking through at Monaco two years ago, so is a good bet to round off Les Bleus’ triumph.
*Odds subject to change.
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