Cavani 28, Forlan 51
Muller 19, Jansen 56, Khedira 82
Germany claimed third place at the World Cup with victory over Uruguay in an entertaining Bronze Medal match. Goals from Thomas Muller, Marcell Jansen and Sami Khedira were enough to eclipse Uruguayan strikes from Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan.
Dennis Aogo was lucky not to be sent off after four minutes, going over the ball with his tackle and crunching into the shin of Diego Perez. After seven minutes, Diego Forlan just missed the top corner with a 25 yard freekick. Arne Friedrich headed Mesut Ozil’s 10th minute corner against the bar after rising above Luis Suarez at the back post. Germany were ahead 18 minutes in through Muller. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s 35 yard shot was spilled by Fernando Muslera and Muller reacted quickest to stroke the rebound home unchallenged. Uruguay were level after 28 minutes thanks to Cavani’s effort. Schweinsteiger gave the ball away to Perez on the halfway line leaving Uruguay with a man over, and Suarez fed Cavani who controlled before finishing into the far corner. Suarez should have put the Uruguayans in front three minutes before half time but he dragged wide of the far post after being set free on the right side of the area.
Hans-Jorg Butt was called into action early in the second half, blocking Cavani’s effort as he shot from an angle before getting a hand to Suarez’s follow-up. After 51 minutes, Uruguay were in front thanks to Forlan. Arevalo dinked a cross to the edge of the area where Forlan acrobatically volleyed down into the turf and inside the post. It took just five minutes for the Germans to draw level. Muslera came for and missed Jerome Boateng’s cross, leaving Jansen free to head home at the back post. Butt parried a Suarez shot from 25 yards after 62 minutes before blocking Forlan’s effort from an angle minutes later. Soon after coming on as a substitute, Stefan Kiessling had a chance in the 76th minute but he shot straight at Muslera who pushed it away. Khedira netted the winner for Germany eight minutes from time. Ozil’s dangerous corner was not cleared by Uruguay and Khedira looped a header into the top corner. Kiessling should have made absolutely sure of the victory after 88 minutes but he blasted over from a central position 15 yards out after a fine passing move. Forlan hit the bar with the final kick of the game from a freekick as Uruguay searched for an equaliser.
It was a curious mix of a game, a rare World Cup instance where there is no future reward for the victors. There was the opportunity to play with more freedom with avoiding defeat little more than a matter of pride. The opening exchanges of the game were curiously cagey, but Muller’s opening goal for Germany woke the Uruguayans up. For the remainder of the game, there was an entertaining contest which followed the tradition of previous Bronze Medal matches in being filled with goals. Uruguay were arguably the better side, with Butt’s superior performance in goal keeping his side on terms long enough to find a winner. Uruguay will feel hard done by on the night to have lost, but on balance across the tournament, the better side finished third.
It was not a match that Muslera will want to remember. For Muller’s goal, he was stumped by a late deviation on Schweinsteiger’s shot having moved to his right when his original position would have enabled him to get his body behind the swerving ball. With the Uruguayan defence stationary, Muller anticipated the goalkeeping error to stroke home in yards of space after running from an onside position. For the second goal, Muslera came to meet the cross but only took a piece of teammate Jorge Fucile, leaving an embarrassingly easy header for Jansen. Having appeared the answer to Uruguay’s keeping problems which saw them use three others in qualifying before Muslera got his chance, the Lazio custodian has seen his confidence and reputation diminish since the World Cup reached the knockout stages. Three clean sheets in Group A have been followed with increasingly nervy and error strewn performances, tempered only by his shootout heroics against Ghana.
This was not one of Germany’s finest performances at the World Cup, perhaps with the hangover from their semi-final defeat to Spain still hanging over them. Having finished third for the second successive World Cup after being the runners-up in 2002, there is much hope that can be taken from the overall performance at this tournament that they can take the final step to victory in four years time. Few fancied the Germans before the tournament, but that has become the theme for years now. The current team has surpassed expectations with some wonderful displays from a fine crop of young players. Very few members of the side will be too old by 2014, with Miroslav Klose among the minority who will likely have been sidelined come the finals in Brazil. The likes of Muller and Ozil have glittering careers ahead of them and Germany must make sure they keep Joachim Low in charge of the team following contract wrangles ahead of the World Cup.
Uruguay are another side to have surpassed expectations in South Africa. The South Americans were the last team to qualify for the World Cup, scraping through a play off with Costa Rica after finishing just fifth in their 10 team qualifying group. They have shown a mix of steely determination defensively and attacking prowess to take advantage of a kind route through to the semi-finals. Muslera’s form dipped terribly as the tournament wore on but there were some superb displays in front of him from players such as Fucile and Diego Perez. Forlan has been one of the players of the tournament, showing English audiences just what he could have become in the Premier League if he had been afforded more time at Manchester United. Alongside him, the controversial figure of Suarez has shown that he had a bright future ahead of him in a bigger league than the Dutch Eredivisie, and will soon come to be remembered for more than just his goal line handball against the Ghanaians.
Uruguay – Muslera – Fucile, Lugano, Godin, Caceres – M. Pereira, Perez (Gargano 77), Arevalo – Cavani (Abreu 89), Suarez, Forlan
Germany – Butt – Boateng, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Aogo – Khedira, Schweinsteiger – Muller, Ozil (Tasci 91), Jansen (Kroos 81) – Cacau (Kiessling 73)