Russia 2018: Axel Witsel hopes to finish on a high

Russia 2018: Axel Witsel hopes to finish on a high

Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel insists his side are determined to end their World Cup tournament on a high with a win over England in the third place game on Saturday.

The Red Devils will hope to beat the Three Lions for the second time in the tournament when both sides clash in St Petersburg. Belgium had defeated England 1-0 in their final group game in Kaliningrad on June 28.

England lost agonisingly to Croatia in extra-time of their semi-final game in Moscow while Belgium also fell by the odd goal to France at the same stadium which will host Saturday’s ‘Losers’ final’.

“We do have one objective, and that is taking the third place so we are taking this match very seriously in the same way as what we did for all the previous matches because we want to finish third for our country and all our supporters and also for ourselves,” said Witsel at the pre-match press conference.

Many football fans are of the opinion that the third place match is a meaningless game and Associations like UEFA, the governing body of European football which Belgium and England are part of, do not stage it in its competitions.

Witsel who now plays his club football in China insists there’s still plenty to play for in the game. He also recaptures the sorrowful night in St Petersburg on Tuesday.

“It is still a World Cup match of course. It is not everyday that you can play in the third place match of the World Cup.

“The night that followed the last match was difficult but we were able to get the support of our families. That was helpful for us to remove the feelings and to think about something else so the team is motivated and we want to finish on a high to give good feelings to everyone,” said the 29-year old defensive midfielder who will be winning his 96th cap for Belgium on Saturday.

Witsel’s manager with the national team; Roberto Martinez spent many of his managerial years in England. The Spaniard complimented Saturday’s opponents, explaining why he thinks English football is on the rise again.

“I think it is fair to say that English football has had a real feeling of being able to achieve,” said Martinez.

“I think St George’s Park has brought that. I think it brings a place of debate, a place of tactical thought, sharing ideas and I think from that point of view, you’ve seen success the Under-17s, the Under-20s have achieved.

“You can easily see that the mentality in English football at international level has been changing since the past few seasons,” he added.

Saturday’s game will start at 5pm local time (5pm in Nigeria) at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in St Petersburg.

Fisayo Dairo reporting from Moscow

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