World Cup Third Place preview:
Nice send off for Muller and Forlan; should this game even exist?
Germany and Uruguay will meet each other Saturday in the World Cup third place match, and the biggest question might be, ‘Does anyone care?’ And I can't really give you a concrete answer on that one. Quick, who won the last two third place games? If you said Germany and Turkey, you're a pretty good World Cup historian. Here are five things to look for in Saturday's Germany-Uruguay clash:
1) Should this game even exist?
Because I like soccer, any soccer, and especially world-class soccer I can watch in HD on a Saturday afternoon, I was going to start to make a case for this game. But I really can't. I mean, Uruguay and Germany did well to make the semifinals, can’t we just leave it at that? Do we really need to know who will finish third? Worse yet, it would be quite a shame if someone got hurt in this game and had to miss the beginning of the club season. So, no, this game really shouldn’t exist.
But I don't get to make those decisions and because the game will be played Saturday afternoon, I'll be watching. In HD.
2) A good encore for Diego Forlan and Thomas Muller
Forlan and Muller have been two of the best players in this tournament, and it will be nice to have them on the field once more in the World Cup. Muller, the brightest of Germany's young stars, was basically jobbed out of not playing in the semifinals thanks to an asinine two yellow cards in five games suspension. At least sitting on the bench against Spain will not be the way he goes out.
Meanwhile, Forlan – for better or for worse – has a chance to win the Golden Boot, and he probably deserves it. At 31, this is most likely it for Forlan at the World Cup and his exploits in South Africa should be remembered for a long time to come, and not just by those in Uruguay.
3) It should be a wide open affair
The last four World Cup third place games have produced 16 goals. Four years ago, Germany beat Portugal 3-1, but the game probably should have had more goals than that (side note: Bastian Schweinsteiger scored twice in that game and may set himself up in scoring in back-to-back third place games, a unique, but truly meaningless honor). In 2002, Turkey actually shocked host South Korea 3-2 in a very entertaining and open game. The problem is I’m not sure Uruguay knows what the meaning of “open” soccer is, so ….
4) Will it be like 1998 or 1994?
We had Germany-Portugal and Turkey-South Korea in the last two World Cups, and – because they were fairly evenly matched teams – the games themselves were very even. In 1998, upstart Croatia upset Germany in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion France 2-1 in the semifinals. But Croatia regrouped to beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the Third Place game.
In 1994, it was Bulgaria who was the upstart, beating Mexico and Germany before being stopped by Italy in the semifinals. But they didn't regroup in the Third Place game, getting pummeled by Sweden 4-0, finishing in fourth.
Which one will Uruguay be? I'm leaning toward Bulgaria, actually, but I've been wrong before.
5) Oh yeah, that Suarez guy is back
It will be somewhat interesting to see what the reaction to the African fans will be to Luis Suarez, whose handball is all that stood between Ghana (and Africa) and a berth in the World Cup semifinals. If it were someone else, I would expect play of boos, but the African people have been so pleasant and the vuvuzelas have been so loud that it’s hard for me to see too much negative reaction toward Suarez in this one. From a pure soccer perspective, having him on the field makes for a much more attractive game, he was one of the best players if the tournament, regardless of what you think about his antics against Ghana.
Bonus) It's actually a rematch
Germany beat Uruguay 1-0 in the 1970 Third Place match. So the game's got tradition, at least.
Prediction: Germany 4, Uruguay 1