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Franz Beckenbauer questions need for World Cup third-place playoff

Jul 12, 2014, 8:35 AM EDT

'Erdinger-Talk 2013' Getty Images

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?

  1. jfield1974 - Jul 12, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    The fans will show up, but will the players. This game is a waste of time and not a single player will risk their club season for this farce.

  2. psuhoffman - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    These comments totally miss the point and lack good sportsmanship. Is it pointless to give bronze medals in the Olympics? The value of getting a medal is all up to what we place in it. Unfortunately sportsmanship has been on the decline in all major sports as money and ego have gotten out of control lately. There is a game to be played and if you are a athlete playing the game you love representing your nation that should be enough. What about friendliest? Not every game leads to a championship and this ego driven argument that if its not going to get me glory then I shouldn’t bother is pathetic. In high school and college I played many games that didnt mean anything in terms of a championship but I always gave my best effort because it was a privledge to be on the pitch and I had self respect and honor. This is no different then when teams tank games or phone it in once eliminated from playoff contention. It’s dishonorable and shows a lack of respect for the game.

    • east96st - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      ” In high school and college I played many games that didnt mean anything in terms of a championship but I always gave my best effort because it was a privledge to be on the pitch and I had self respect and honor.”

      Please. Number of games where YOU played “with self respect and honor” where you were risking your ability to provide for you and family – ZERO. Number of games where your employer risked losing your services w/o any compensation – ZERO. Number of games your fans risked losing the opportunity to see you play and help their favorite pro team win – ZERO. You’re self righteous hypocrisy is “dishonorable”. How dare you compare YOUR experience – when you risked NOTHING – to theirs when they risk it all. The game IS pointless and there is much at stake. If FIFA had any “self respect and honor” – and it’s well established that they don’t – they would assure the players and coaches that if a player so much as sneezes in another player’s direction, he would get hit with a yellow. What these guys are worried about, and anyone with an ounce of common sense understands why, is that the game could become a goonfest like Brazil vs Columbia. There is, literally, millions of dollars of future earnings at stake for these men and the men who employ them. They are cynical because the governing body that oversees the tournament is corrupt and inept. So, as long as a couple of well placed millions under the table buys you a World Cup in the Middle East desert in summer, no one in their right mind is going to want to risk their future for a meaningless game. Clean up FIFA, make officials face real sanctions for allowing games to get violent, and, maybe, these guys would be a little more eager to play the game. Until then, your indignation rings hollow. Comparing you to them is no comparison at all. You were child playing an amateur game for laughs. These are men playing a professional game to support their families – many of whom dedicated the whole lives to the sport as their only chance to escape poverty.

  3. jfield1974 - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    “These comments”??? As mine is the only one…

    Sportsmanship or not, you have athletes who played for their country and cannot win The Cup and you expect them to risk their money for third place?

    I get it, I really do. I am all in on the altruistic view point, but that isn’t where reality lives. Out of the two, I’d expect the Netherlands to show up for the win. I’d like to believe there is enough heart in Brazil but after what Germany did to them, it seems unlikely.

  4. psuhoffman - Jul 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    “These comments” was directed at the media/coaches who have been speaking out lately. As for the risking money issue, you risk injury with everything. Every time you do anything there is risk. An athlete can get in a car accident, should they not drive. I feel like you have to just live your life and not worry about every risk all the time. It’s also a slippery slope. What about Spain who played their third game with honor a d effort after being eliminated, was that stupid? Also this is not for nothing, its for a third place medal. That should mean something but for some reason sentiment has turned the other way on that. I believe ego is at play because its two teams that expect more and so they don’t appreciate a medal. If it was Costa Rica or the USA playing I bet it would be a big deal to them. Playing in the World Cup should be an honor not to be wasted.

  5. rmccleary97 - Jul 12, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Franz would be all for the 3rd place game if someone were offering a kickback to him for playing it.

  6. jfield1974 - Jul 12, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Here’s to hoping ego is largely in play today.

  7. patriotsdefense - Jul 12, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    With all that goes into even qualifying for the World Cup it makes sense to have a third place game. The only good teams get that far and it means nothing to them. While for other teams, lesser football nations, the chance to come in third is a huge deal and potentially major accomplishment.

    I really see Beckenbauer as an elitest pig for his comments. Of course to a team like Germany third place means nothing. In 2006, it meant a lot to a rebuilding Germany team. They even threw them a parade. Often, the well off forget how they got there. I do hear his injury concern, but come on its a month long tournament. Injury risk is part of the game.

  8. braxtonrob - Jul 12, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    Ironically, 3rd place achievement (and medals) mean nothing (apparently) to nations who have been there.

    However, for CONCACAF teams, like Costa Rica, it would have bee a GLORIOUS achievement.

    If you don’t like 3rd place, fine, but keep it to yourself. Everyone outside of UEFA and CONMEBOL dreams of 3rd place.

  9. jfield1974 - Jul 12, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    And that was an icky game…

    Brasil came out like gangbusters, again, and got burnt, again. Lucky it was only 3 this time.

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