Why Play For 3rd?
For the past few weeks Australia has been hosting the Asia Cup. Whilst I’ve not watched nearly as much as I’ve wanted something struck me last night as I watch South Korea beat Iraq in the first semi-final (Australia are playing the UAE as I type); why play for 3rd? The cynic in me thinks the 3rd place play-off is there to have a build up game ahead of the final, one last chance to get some bums on seats and sell some air time for adverts. Or perhaps for national bragging rights but then who really goes around saying “we were the 3rd best team in the Asia Cup!” I actually had to Google who won the 3rd place playoff in the last World Cup (it was Holland for those curious) and that’s just it, no-one remembers. You either make it to the final or you don’t, heck most people struggle to remember the losing finalist let alone those who competed for 3rd!
In many ways I think it’s rather cruel to make two teams, probably gutted to have gotten so close to the final, to play again for a match which ultimately doesn’t matter; unless you care about coefficients. Many years from now you’re unlikely to hear football fans regaling each other with stories of the epic 3rd place playoff between Team X and Team Y or how they look forward to that tie in the next World Cup so seriously, why have it?!? Is it that important to have a game to break up the time between the semi-finals and the final? Could we not just wait till the final? Or, if organisers are that intent to host a game before the final, why not have the two teams made up of players from all but the competing finalists, a sort of all-star game? At least this way we’re acknowledging the fact that it’s just there for the spectacle and from a fan point of view we’ll get to see the top talent on display again in a “just for kicks” game that will likely have some exhibition style football on display which can be very entertaining.
I just don’t believe we need a competitive fixture for 3rd place to be played for any major tournament, it serves no purpose and I honestly doubt any participating team has taken it seriously. I’m more likely to tune in for a tournament all-star game and that, I think, is the answer if we must have a game between the semis and final… FIFA, your move!