Franz Beckenbauer took to the Twitter airwaves today to ponder whether the World Cup third-place playoff is truly needed. Brazil play Netherlands today for the chance at a third-place medal, but Beckenbauer wonders if that even makes sense:
The 68-year-old, currently a pundit for Sky Germany, certainly has experience in such matters. He played for West Germany from 1965 to 1977, then managed the team from 1984 to 1990. During that time, West Germany won lifted the World Cup twice, and came second two times. They also were the third-place winners in 1970.
In 1970, West Germany fell 4-3 to Italy after added extra time, with five goals scored in the additional thirty minutes. The match took place three days after the Germans beat England 3-2, also in added extra time. Three days later, they faced off against Uruguay for the dubious honor of third place. That match featured just one goal, from Wolfgang Overath, scored in the 26th minute.
It is easy to see why players and coaches would consider the match between the losers of the semifinals to be rather pointless. What matters is lifting the World Cup, not determining who might be the third-best. Indeed, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal made a similar point, saying:
This match should never be played. I’ve been saying that for 10 years; it’s unfair. There is only one award that counts and that is becoming world champions.
However, the third-place match has been played since the 1934 tournament, so it’s unlikely it’s going away any time soon. Fortunately for the fans, if not the teams, the game is typically a fun one. The match in 1970 may not have been a thriller, but in four of the past five tournaments, there have been at least four goals scored in the penultimate match.
How many do you think there will be today?