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Betting preview: Belgium - England

The World Cup third-place play-off is a game that neither team involved ever seems to want, but once you get beyond those three or four days of mourning a painful semi-final defeat, the match itself tends to be rather entertaining. Presumably, the yearning for home intensifies to such a level that players are simply D-mob happy and nobody really cares about the result.

Over the past 10 tournaments, this fixture has produced a grand total of 39 goals with the over 2.5 goals bet landing each and every time. And despite the tedious affair these two played out in the final game of Group G - when both made wholesale changes that might be replicated here - there’s no reason to believe this won’t follow historical trends.

There's no discernible pattern to who wins a third-place game or by how many, save to say that the threat of extra time looms like the prospect of an awkward customer walking into your workplace at 4.59pm on a Friday afternoon. Only once in those past 10 tournaments (1986) has this game failed to produce a winner inside the 90 minutes.

Bulgaria were trounced 4-0 by Sweden at USA 94, having travelled nearly 3,000 miles in the opposite direction from home in order to fulfil the obligation. And Brazil were 2-0 down inside 20 minutes against the Netherlands four years ago, eventually going down 3-0, just days after the trauma of their 7-1 humiliation against Germany. 

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Otherwise, everyone gives a good account of themselves from an attacking perspective and finds the net at some stage. On four occasions, both teams have scored twice, with the over 3.5 goals bet copping six times and the over 4.5 goals line triggered in three of those instances. With those numbers in mind, it's the over 3.5 bet at 8/5 that gets the nod here.

In many ways, the build-up to this game is similar to the meeting 16 days ago with Roberto Martinez announcing his intention to rotate, while Gareth Southgate has declared an inclination to make as few changes as possible. Southgate reneged on that promise in Kaliningrad and might well do so again.

The Golden Boot race is a side issue that Harry Kane is likely to be most preoccupied by. The Tottenham striker is currently leading the way on six goals, which means only a hat-trick for Romelu Lukaku or four goals for either Antoine Griezmann or Kylian Mbappe in the final could deny him at least a share of the award.

Belgium are 13/10 favourites to win the game, which is shorter than the 6/4 that was available pre-tournament on them winning the group encounter but understandable considering their superior semi-final performance, the extra 24 hours rest they have had and the fact they didn't go to extra time in any of their three knockout matches. 

Recommended bet:

Over 3.5 goals at 8/5

FIFA - World Cup Belgium vs England 14 July, 14:00 GMT 0

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