WHINGERS be gone - I come to praise the third place play-off, not bury it.

In the wake of England's semi-final defeat to Croatia, the naysayers have been out in force, wearing out the caps lock on their keyboards.

'England third place play-off is POINTLESS: World Cup chiefs told to end bronze medal match' screamed the Daily Express headline.

Who has told them, exactly? Oh yes, of course - the moaners and the soulless, the can't-be-bothered and the bad losers.

By their logic, there wouldn't be bronze medals in the Olympics. Those who finish third, no matter how hard they have battled, would be denied a place on the podium.

But their logic is flawed, and the facts bare that out.

In the last 10 World Cup finals, 23 goals have been scored, a meagre 2.3 per match -and 13 of those were scored in the 1978, 1982 and 1986 finals. The last seven finals have yielded 10 goals. Yawn.

By contrast, the last 10 third place play-offs have involved 41 goals.

The last great World Cup final was way back in 1986, Argentina prevailing 3-2 against West Germany, in a fantastic global advert for the sport.

But there have been some fabulous third place play-offs in more recent memory.

Croatia (remember them?) beat the Netherlands 2-1 in a fine match in 1998, and there was a stirring contest four years later when Turkey held off South Korea 3-2.

Think about it. When Turkey v South Korea can be so described, we are in strange territory.

Germany took out their semi-final frustrations in 2006 with a commanding 3-1 win over Portugal, and repeated the feat in 2010, in one of the great World Cup matches, beating Uruguay 3-2 with the lead changing hands three times.

Even the one-sided Dutch demolition of a shell-shocked Brazil four years ago boasted three goals.

The third place play-off has had three goals or more at every World Cup since 1978. By contrast, the final hasn't seen three goals since 1998.

So I know which match I'm watching this weekend. England and Belgium, bring it on.