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World Cup 2018 – The Final Whistle
2018 World Cup

World Cup 2018 – The Final Whistle

I don’t know about you, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the 2018 World Cup. It began as a tournament that threatened to be overshadowed by VAR in the early stages, but the football quickly took over.

Plenty of the minnows like Panama and Saudi Arabia looked outclassed, though some low-ranked countries like South Korea scaled new heights as they helped dump the holders Germany out of the competition at the group stage. Meanwhile, despite being the lowest-ranked team in the whole competition, Russia knocked out Spain and could easily have beaten finalists Croatia.

Equally, Argentina’s and Portugal’s exit in the round-of-last-16 again showed that even the best players in the world like Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo can’t always carry their teams.

However, we’re now left with just the third-placed play-off and the 2018 World Cup Final to try and dissect before the final whistle of the 2018 World Cup blows at somewhere around 17.50 on Sunday – unless there’s extra-time.

England vs Belgium

The chants of “It’s Coming Home” may have subsided in the wake of England’s 2-1 defeat at Croatia, but England still have another match to play as they take on Belgium in the third-place play-off on Saturday at 3pm.

It’s a match that, apparently, no team looks forward to on the back of semi-final defeat but, if history is anything to go by, the third-place play-off is often a good-tempered match in which both sides often abandon their defensive tendencies in a bid to provide fans with plenty of goals.

That’s certainly been the case at the last 10 World Cups, with the equivalent matches all producing at least three goals. Indeed, there have been three goals in three matches, four goals in three matches, five goals in three matches, and six goals in the only one of the ten matches that went to extra-time.

There’s also a good chance that some of the players that haven’t currently played much of a part or just bit parts in the World Cup so far will get to feature, and they’ll all have points to prove.
Of course, England and Belgium have already met at this World Cup, though that 1-0 win for Belgium was a dead-rubber after both teams had already qualified. Just for the record, it’s worth noting that England had not lost any of their previous twenty meeting with the Belgians. Meanwhile, the last two teams to play twice at a World Cup were Brazil and Turkey in 2002.

There are also lots of other stats to consider. Both England and Belgium have previously been in a third-place play-off game at a World Cup – and both lost. Belgium lost 4-2 to France in 1986, whilst England lost to Italy in 1990.

Those of you considering an anytime goalscorer bet may also want to know that Romelu Lukaku has never gone more than three games without a goal since Roberto Martinez became the Belgian manager, and Lukaku hasn’t scored in his last three games. However, those thinking that Harry Kane is a certainty to score may want to consider that he hasn’t even had a shot on target in England’s last three games, apart from his penalty against Colombia.

England vs Belgium Best Bets

With the possibility of neither team taking this game too seriously, trying to pick the winner of it looks pointless unless there’s a big disparity between the quality of the starting line-ups.

However, past history suggests it might be worth going high in the over/under goals markets, and more than 3.5 goals and 4.5 goals look worth a punt. Marcus Rashford may also get a full game after being a substitute for most of the World Cup, and the youngster looks sure to be keen to make his mark on a game with a view to Southgate handing him a starting role in the run-up to the 2020 Euros.

More Than 3.5 Goals @ 2.43 Unibet
More Than 4.5 Goals @ 4.40 Unibet
Marcus Rashford To Score At Any Time @ 4.00 Betfred

France vs Croatia

It’s hard to know how Croatia would have fared in the other half of the draw, but it’s fair to say the bottom-half looked the easiest when the group stage was completed. However, it’s hard to fault France. They did just enough to qualify top in their group without ever looking like they came out of second gear. They then showed amazing attacking prowess against Argentina to come back after going behind early on. They then looked too tactically aware for Uruguay and Belgium as they eased through the quarter-finals and semi-finals without conceding a goal.

Past head to heads also suggest this may be a tight match. France did win all three games between the two sides in a period between 1998 and 2000. However, the last two matches have been draws, with their game in the 2004 European Championship finishing 2-2, and their 2011 friendly finishing 0-0.

Meanwhile, in total contrast to the third-place play-off match, recent World Cup finals have mainly been low-scoring affairs. However, whilst one final ended 0-0, three ended 1-0, and the other two ended 2-0 and 1-1, the only one of the last seven World Cup Finals to produce three or more goals was when France beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup Final.

However, whilst the current French team also have the talent to score three goals in any match, manager Didier Deschamps prioritises defence over attack and his team have performed brilliantly as a unit in their last two games. Meanwhile, whilst France have kept two consecutive clean-sheets, both England and Russia have managed to get the ball in the back of the Croatian net.

Both teams look sure to start the game cagily and neither may be willing to commit too many men forward in the opening stages. Therefore, it’s also interesting that three of the last five games between them have been 0-0 at half-time, whilst the other two games were 1-0 at the interval. Therefore, a 0-0 half-time score-line in a game that may not peak until the second-half looks a value-bet, whilst France may be good enough to win to nil in 90-minutes.

France vs Croatia Bets

Half-time score 0-0 @ 2.38 Marathon
France To Win @ 5.00 with RedBet (Bet Here)

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