Third place playoff

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A third place playoff, match/game for third place, bronze medal game or consolation game is a single match that is included in many sporting knockout tournaments to decide which competitor or team will be credited with finishing third and fourth. The teams that compete in the third place playoff game are usually the two losing semi-finalists in a particular knockout tournament.

Sport forms of competitive activity, usually physical

Sport includes all forms of competitive physical activity or games which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators. Hundreds of sports exist, from those between single contestants, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals. In certain sports such as racing, many contestants may compete, simultaneously or consecutively, with one winner; in others, the contest is between two sides, each attempting to exceed the other. Some sports allow a "tie" or "draw", in which there is no single winner; others provide tie-breaking methods to ensure one winner and one loser. A number of contests may be arranged in a tournament producing a champion. Many sports leagues make an annual champion by arranging games in a regular sports season, followed in some cases by playoffs.


Many tournaments use the third place playoff to determine who wins the bronze medal. In some tournaments, a third place playoff is necessary for seeding purposes if three or all four semi-finalists advance to another tournament.

Bronze medal award usually given for third-place finishers of an event

A bronze medal in sports and other similar areas involving competition is a medal made of bronze awarded to the third-place finisher of contests or competitions such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, etc. The outright winner receives a gold medal and the second place a silver medal. More generally, bronze is traditionally the most common metal used for all types of high-quality medals, including artistic ones. The practice of awarding bronze third place medals began at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, Missouri, before which only first and second places were awarded.

In tournaments that do not award medals or have the third place finisher advance to something else, a third place playoff is a classification match that serves little more than as a consolation to the losing semi-finalists. A consolation game also allows teams to play more than one game after having invested time, effort and money in the quest for a championship. Third place playoffs held as such consolation games are subject to debate. Many sports tournaments do not have a third place playoff due to a lack of interest. It has been criticised by some who feel that the match serves little purpose, but others see this game as an occasion for the losing semi-finalists to salvage some pride. How seriously the competitors or teams take a third place playoff, may also be mixed: a heavily favoured team that lost in an upset in the semi-final round may not have as much incentive to win as would a "Cinderella" team who was not expected to advance that far.

In sports, the terms Cinderella, "Cinderella story", and Cinderella team are used to refer to situations in which competitors achieve far greater success than would reasonably have been expected. Cinderella stories tend to gain much media and fan attention as they move closer to the championship game at the end of the tournament. The term comes from Cinderella, a well-known European folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. The title character is a woman living in unfortunate circumstances that are suddenly changed to remarkable fortune. In a sporting context the term has been used at least since 1939, but came into widespread usage in 1950, when the Disney movie came out that year, and in reference to City College of New York, the unexpected winners of the NCAA Men's Basketball championship also that year. The term was used by Bill Murray in the 1980 hit movie Caddyshack where he pretends as the announcer to his own golf fantasy: "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion."


Most sports using a knockout format in the Olympic Games have a third place game to determine who wins the bronze medal, with the exception being boxing which awards two bronze medals (judo, taekwondo, and wrestling, which also award two bronze medals, both feature two bronze medal matches, between the losing semi-finalists and the winners of the repechage). As the difference between a bronze medal and no medal is quite significant, competitors still take this game seriously.

Olympic Games major international sport event

The modern Olympic Games or Olympics are leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games are considered the world's foremost sports competition with more than 200 nations participating. The Olympic Games are held every four years, with the Summer and Winter Games alternating by occurring every four years but two years apart.

Boxing at the Summer Olympics

Boxing has been contested at every Summer Olympic Games since its introduction to the program at the 1904 Summer Olympics, except for the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, because Swedish law banned the sport at the time. The 2008 Summer Olympics were the final games with boxing as a male only event. Since the 2012 Summer Olympics, women's boxing is part of the program.

Judo at the Summer Olympics

Judo was first included in the Summer Olympic Games at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, Japan. After not being included in 1968, judo has been an Olympic sport in each Olympiad since then. Only male judoka participated until the 1988 Summer Olympics, when women participated as a demonstration sport. Women judoka were first awarded medals at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

IRB Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup used to give automatic qualification to all teams in the top three of the ongoing tournament to the one that would follow it four years later thus making the third place playoff game important, but this was later scrapped after the 1999 edition of the tournament allowing teams outside the top three to automatically qualify depending on their IRB co-efficient in the rankings.

Rugby World Cup international rugby union competition

The Rugby World Cup is a men's rugby union tournament contested every four years between the top international teams. The tournament was first held in 1987, when the tournament was co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

FIFA World Cup and other association football tournaments

The 1980 edition was the last UEFA European Football Championship to have a third place match. That was one of the few third place football matches ever to be decided by a penalty shootout, where Czechoslovakia defeated hosts Italy 9-8.

UEFA Euro 1980 1980 edition of the UEFA Euro

The 1980 UEFA European Football Championship final tournament was held in Italy. This was the sixth European Football Championship, which is held every four years and endorsed by UEFA. It was the first edition to feature eight teams, taking place between 11 and 22 June 1980. West Germany won the final 2–1 for their second title. This was the last European Championship with a third place play-off.

Czechoslovakia national football team former mens national association football team representing Czechoslovakia

The Czechoslovakia national football team was the national association football team of Czechoslovakia from 1920 to 1992. The team was controlled by the Czechoslovak Football Association, and the team qualified for eight World Cups and three European Championships. It had two runner-up finishes in World Cups, in 1934 and 1962, and won the European Championship in the 1976 tournament.

Italy national football team mens national association football team representing Italy

The Italy national football team has officially represented Italy in association football since their first match in 1910. The squad is under the global jurisdiction of FIFA and is governed in Europe by UEFA—the latter of which was co-founded by the Italian team's supervising body, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC). Italy's home matches are played at various stadiums throughout Italy, and their primary training ground is located at the FIGC headquarters in Coverciano, Florence.

The FIFA World Cup features a third place playoff, usually on the day before the final. It is often there to provide a spectacle as there is often a gap of a few days between the semi-finals and the final. The third place playoff is considered a lower-priority match to organizers, as it is frequently scheduled in one of the smaller stadia; the largest stadium (usually located in the host nation's capital city) is reserved for the final, while the semi-finals occupy the second and third-largest stadia. However, the third place match in the 1994 World Cup did use the Rose Bowl stadium, the same venue that would later host the tournament final, setting a record attendance of 91,500 for a third place playoff in FIFA World Cup history.

The UEFA Nations League will also have a third place playoff, this game will be played on the same day as the final.

The third-place match in the FIFA Women's World Cup has been somewhat more important to the organizers—the 1999, 2003, and 2007 matches were all held in the same stadium as the final. In fact, the 1999 and 2007 third-place matches were both held as the first half of a doubleheader that culminated in the final. The 2011 third-place match returned to the more traditional scheduling of the day before the final in a different stadium. Notably, the 1999 third-place match was the curtain-raiser to the most-attended women's sporting event in history, the 1999 final also held in the Rose Bowl.

The third place match is generally a high-scoring affair, as no men's match has seen fewer than two goals scored since Poland's 1-0 win over Brazil in 1974, while all bronze-medal games since 1994 (except for 1998, 2014 and 2018) have seen four goals or more. For tournament top scorers, the third place match's tendency of attacking football is a great opportunity to win the Golden Shoe, with players such as Salvatore Schillaci (1990), Davor Šuker (1998), and Thomas Müller (2010) getting the goal they needed to take sole possession of the lead. [1] The FIFA Women's World Cup has had only seven editions to date, therefore creating less opportunity for a pattern to form. However, two of the third-place games in that competition have seen fewer than three goals. In 1995, the USA defeated China 2–0. In 1999, the third-place match between Brazil and Norway ended in a scoreless draw and penalty shootout (won by Brazil), as did the final between the USA and China (won by the USA). In 2015, the third place match between Germany and England was the first to go to extra time, and in the second period of extra time, England scored a single penalty kick goal and held on to the lead to upset Germany.

How seriously the competing teams take this match is subject to debate. Certain teams, especially ones which had been expected to reach the final, will rest some of their starters to allow some of their reserve team players to participate in a World Cup game. For instance French team captain Michel Platini did not play in either the 1982 or 1986 third place matches, while German goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt received his only competitive international appearance in a third place playoff [2] [3] , and Michel Vorm came on during injury time of the 3–0 third place play-off win against Brazil in Brasília thus ensuring that all 23 Dutch squad members played at the tournament. [4] By contrast, teams that are not expected to get this far usually take this match seriously, as third place can be a historical achievement. In the 1994 World Cup, the Sweden national team branded the game as "the bronze match" and after victory they landed at Arlanda with a fighter escort and were then paraded through the streets of Stockholm to millions live on national TV. Another example of a high-profile third place match was in 1998, when the recently established Croatian football team upset the Netherlands.

If the host nation is involved in the third place match, the team generally uses the match to thank the support of their fans (such as the South Korean football team in 2002, and the German football team in 2006). [1] German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who had been a reserve to Jens Lehmann during the 2006 tournament, was allowed to retire in the third place playoff by then manager Jürgen Klinsmann. Germany and Portugal fielded strong lineups in that match, after both were narrowly eliminated in their respective semi-finals (Germany and Italy nearly went to a penalty shootout, [5] while Portugal was defeated by the lower-ranked France [6] ). For Brazil, the dismal 3–0 loss to the Netherlands in the 2014 third place match, along with the 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany, led to coach Luiz Felipe Scolari being dismissed. [7] [8] For the Dutch, this was their first bronze medal in the FIFA World Cup. [9]

Germany currently holds the most third-place finishes in the (men's) World Cup, with four, their most recent in 2010. [10] The U.S. has the most third-place finishes in the Women's World Cup, with three; they have never finished outside the top three.

Little League World Series

For most of its history, the Little League World Series has featured either a consolation bracket, or consolation games. Currently, the tournament features a single consolation game between the United States runner-up and the International runner-up. Like the championship, the game allows an American team to compete against an International team. All other games are played within their respective American or International pool of eight teams each, except two exhibition games which match the United States teams and International teams which went 0-2 in their respective brackets.

Early season College Basketball Tournaments

Third place games (and consolation games for lower placings) are common in early season college basketball tournaments, as it gives each team an opportunity to play more games before the conference games start in earnest. It also provides the tournament venue with additional games.

Defunct third place playoff games

Many sports tournaments do not have a third place playoff, mostly due to a lack of interest from the competitors and also from the fans. Two of the most celebrated knockout tournaments — the FA Cup Third-fourth place matches (1970–1974) and the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship (1946–1981) — did feature the third place game for a period of time, but later abandoned it. For most of its years, the NCAA consolation game held interest because it usually featured two nationally ranked teams in which only a few teams qualified for the tournament. However, as the field expanded beyond 32 teams, the game lost significance.[ citation needed ] In addition, eliminating the game allowed the losing teams to return home rather than remaining in the Final Four city for an additional two days to play a game many[ who? ] believed was irrelevant. Relevancy aside, others[ who? ] supported the game for competitive reasons because it typically featured a match between two of the best college teams in the nation; and, it allowed each of those teams to be honored as a Final Four team for the entire weekend.

The National Football League had a consolation game, the Playoff Bowl, from 1960 to 1969, which pitted the second-place team in each of the two conferences (based on regular season record from 1960 to 1966) against each other in Miami, Florida. Through the 1966 season, the only scheduled NFL playoff game was the Championship Game (with unscheduled conference tie-breaker games as necessary; only in 1965 during the 1960s). In 1967, the NFL playoff field expanded to four (division champions), and its first round losers went to the Playoff Bowl, increasingly unpopular with the participating players. With interest declining for a third-place game and an eight-team playoff field arriving with the AFL–NFL merger in 1970, the Playoff Bowl was abandoned with little objection.

Third place playoffs are especially controversial when they are used in tournaments that use a Page playoff system since there is only one "semi-final" game in this format. Critics argue that in such a formula, the loser of the semi-final should simply be awarded third place. Proponents of the third place game argue that without it, the importance of the medal round is cheapened since the top two teams heading into the Page playoff would otherwise be "guaranteed" a medal - this argument carries less weight in tournaments where medals are not awarded or where they are considered of relatively minor importance in comparison to winning the tournament.

See also

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1974 FIFA World Cup 1974 edition of the FIFA World Cup

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1990 FIFA World Cup 1990 edition of the FIFA World Cup

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FIFA Womens World Cup international association football competition

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