Germany have won third place at the World Cup, claiming the bronze medal position after a fine match against Uruguay.
A lively opening period saw the teams go into the break level. Die Mannschaft impressed early and moved ahead thanks to a predatory strike from Thomas Mueller but Edison Cavani had tied the scores by the interval. The Celeste turned the game on its head when Diego Forlan’s technically wonderful volley found the net but their lead was also short lived, with Marcell Jansen levelling matters. Sami Khedira won the game with a header in the twilight of a fine fixture.
Traditionally the third/fourth place playoff is one of the most exciting games of the World Cup, and both sides would show early enterprise in Nelson Mandela Bay.
As early as the third minute Thomas Mueller would have the ball in the Uruguayan net, poking home from 18 yards, though his goal was disallowed for an earlier infringement committed by Cacau, who had been drafted into the team to replace the flu-ridden Miroslav Klose.
Moments later a rash challenge by another newcomer to the Europeans’ starting XI, Dennis Aogo, was lucky to escape with only a caution when he clattered into Diego Perez high and late, leaving the Uruguayan hardman to receive treatment.
Diego Forlan was typically the first man in sky blue to threaten, sending a free kick a foot to the right of Hans-Joerg Butt’s goal.
But it was Germany who were making most of the early running, forcing Jorge Fucile and Diego Lugano into some desperate clearances. The South American defence was very nearly breached on ten minutes when a deep corner from Mesut Oezil was firmly headed against the bar by Arne Friedrich, with Fernando Muslera beaten. Mueller could not wrestle home the rebound.
The Bayern Munich man had better luck soon afterwards. A thunderous long range drive from Bastian Schweinsteiger was poorly dealt with by the Uruguayan custodian, who spilled the ball out into the middle of the box. Mueller reacted when others did not, giving himself a simple tap in from ten yards.
Die Mannschaft were at this stage creating regular inroads into the Celeste’s defence but wouldn’t even enjoy the lead for ten minutes.
Forlan had already worried the German rearguard with a blocked back post header from a deflected cross by the time Cavani drew the sides level. Perez superbly picked the pocket of Schweinsteiger in the centre of the park, setting in motion a break that saw the Europeans outnumbered from the outset. Luis Suarez, booed relentlessly by the South African crowd, rolled a well-weighted pass to the Palmero striker, who took a touch before stretching to prod the ball by Butt and into the net.
The closing stages of the opening period, which were played out under heavy rain, did not bring the drama of the opening moments, though Uruguay might have grabbed the lead four minutes before the break. Forlan’s clever reverse pass released Suarez but the Ajax striker dragged his shot wide from a somewhat awkward angle.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Cacau nearly latched onto a deflected Mueller pass, though Fucile covered superbly across to avert the danger.
Within three minutes of the restart Suarez had another disappointing miss. Cavani’s initial foray into the box was blocked by Butt, who could not hold the ball on the slick surface. From a tight angle, the forward recuperated possession and laid a pass back to his Amsterdam-based colleague. Still admittedly faced with a tight angle, the unpopular striker saw the flying goalkeeper touch his shot wide.
The wind was nevertheless in the Uruguayans’ sails and the South Americans would soon have the advantage. Arevalo Rios found himself uncharacteristically far forward down the right and lobbed a waist-height pass back towards the edge of the box, from where Forlan showed stunning poise to volley home a terrific goal with his right foot.
Germany had posed no serious threat after the interval until they levelled up on 55 minutes. Jerome Boateng’s cross from deep on the right side was badly missed by the out-of-sorts Muslera, allowing Jansen to unconventionally knock the ball into the empty net with his head.
From the ashes of these two quickfire goals grew a superb open goal. Oezil dallied too long when well placed in the Uruguay box, but up at the other end the Celeste were causing Germany real issues.
A Suarez block had to be averted by a smart challenge. Undeterred, the Ajax man tried an effort from distance that was spectacularly blocked by Butt, who soon had to be sharp from his goal line to thwart the Golden Boot chasing Forlan.
Stefan Kiessling was introduced by Joachim Loew to add some attacking flair at the expense of Cacau. The Bayer Leverkusen man’s clever turn in the box with quarter of an hour brought with it a scoring chance, though his drive was straight at Muslera, who batted the ball uncomfortably clear.
Loew’s side were looking the more likely side to snatch third place, and they did just that with nine minutes remaining. Another deep Oezil corner was allowed to bounce about the six yard box. Khedira ultimately got the decisive touch, sending a clever header looping over Muslera and into the top corner of the net.
The latter stages of the game were typically fraught. Uruguay pushed men forward in increasing numbers, allowing Germany to counter with purpose. Boateng had a firm shot saved well by Muslera, before a fluid counter ended with Kiessling scooping the ball over from close range.
In additional time, Suarez won a free kick on the edge of the Germany box. Forlan hovered, but the magic was not there as he blasted against the bar.
Over the course of this campaign, both Germany and Uruguay can look back at their achievements with some pride, yet die Mannschaft’s attacking brand of football has really captured the imagination and for their enterprise over the course of the last month they deserve third.