England and Belgium, two teams who had the biggest prize of all in their sights, now face off today with as good as zilch up for grabs. Whether you come third or fourth matters not a jot in this tournament; the bronze medal doesn't have anything like the significance it does in other sports. Gary Neville has described the fixture as a "testimonial-type game" that nobody wants to have to turn out for. I'm sure all the players would rather be on the beach. For football fans, however, it does keep the wolf from the door as they wait for the final, and gives them a last look at two sides who have made their mark on this World Cup. England have re-emerged from the shadows to make their presence felt on the big stage once more, while Belgium's magnificent generation of players has finally started to meet our expectations.
Putin has certainly done well out of this tournament
With the World Cup nearing its end, the time has come to say that it has turned out very well. Fifa president Gianni Infantino reckons it's been the best ever. Well, perhaps. Certainly, Vladimir Putin has got what he wanted out of it. Russia's image of being an unwelcoming, dangerous, ever-mysterious country, one seemingly determined to regain at all costs the sinister prestige of the now-defunct USSR, has softened thanks to the World Cup. Its ultras haven't put in an appearance. AS' Joaquín Maroto had already warned: "Putin won't let them move a muscle." Security at the tournament has been exemplary, but without the discomfort of being excessively applied. Everyone making their way to Russia for the event (Red Square alone has pulled in three million visitors) is returning home suitably impressed.
Introduction of Fan ID for World Cup has been crucial
The introduction of the Fan ID card, which has hung visibly around supporters' necks and has even served as a visa, has been crucial. Anyone overstepping the mark has had it taken off them and, with that, problem dealt with. There have been few cases of that, though. Pretty much the only black mark on the competition has been the harassment of female reporters, a deeply unpleasant trend that must be stamped out. In the main, though, millions of fans from across the planet have had a whale of a time in Russia, many discovering cities hitherto little known to the wider world, all nicely plumped up so the football family could enjoy both the World Cup and its host country. That's what the event is all about: to bring folk from different nations closer together. Travel fosters understanding between peoples.