Third Place Play-off
Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth
July 10, 2010, 12:00 AM IST
Uruguay and Germany face-off against each other in the third place play-off, in Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay stadium. Germany would have to lift themselves up, after the Spanish Armada sailed over them to sink their title ambitions, while Uruguay would be hoping to make their best World Cup in many years, even better.
Both the teams will come into this game with a nothing-to-lose attitude, having exceeded all expectations already. In a matter of weeks, the German campaign transformed from one that was expected to fizzle out in the absence of experienced players, to such heights that even a semi-final defeat was labelled as a heartbreak. This was all due to the giant-killing exploits of the young Germans. On the other hand, nobody, even in their wildest dreams, expected the only South American team to reach the semi-finals could be Uruguay.
La Celeste, after breaking a billion African hearts in the quarter-finals, went down to a superior Dutch team. The self-proclaimed new owner of hand-of-god was sorely missed as Diego Forlan was left to take on the Oranje all by himself, which the erstwhile Man United man almost did. The Uruguay captain has had a superb tournament, inspiring his team-mates to go beyond their limitations to achieve the impossible. He will look to finish the World Cup on a high.
Suarez is back, after serving his suspension, however Diego Lugano is yet to recover from his knee injury. Forlan was substituted in the game against the Netherlands due to a thigh injury, but this should not prevent the Uruguayan superstar from taking the field against Germany. Their discipline has brought them thus far, and that can even take the South Americans past the Germans.
The youngest German team to feature in a World Cup after 1930, demolished England and Argentina, before going down to the European Champions Spain, in the semi-finals. The high-tempo, free-flowing football that they had played in the competition was conspicuous by its absence, against the Spaniards. Germany lost the midfield battle as Spain hogged majority of ball-possession in areas where it mattered the most, and eventually the match. Still they can take heart from their performance, and come back stronger in Brazil 2014. They are an extremely young side that will only improve with time. Most the players that featured in this World Cup are expected to represent Germany again in four years time, and that bodes well for the Nationalmannschaft.
The Young Player of the Tournament Thomas Muller returns to add to his already impressive four-goal tally, after serving a suspension. It must have been extremely saddening for him to sit out, as his team struggled on the pitch. However, he would be eager to show the world what Germany missed in his absence. Miroslav Klose has Ronaldo’s all-time goal-scoring record in his sights; if he manages to score against Uruguay, then despite the opinion of purists, he would ensure his name is taken in the same breath as that of The Phenomenon – a huge achievement.
World Cup Head-to-Head Record: This is a record fifth appearance in a World Cup third-place play-off match for Germany – they have won three times (1934, 1970 and 2006) and lost once (1958). In one of their three previous meeting, they had defeated Uruguay 1-0 in 1970, to claim the third spot.
Player to watch out for: Mesut Ozil (Germany)
After a bright start, the Werder Bremen man’s influence on the pitch has diminished. Especially against Spain, he failed to recreate the magic that had left the world wanting for more. The fact that it coincided with Muller’s suspension, with whom he had shared a telepathic understanding, should not raise too many eyebrows. He would be yearning to leave South Africa on a high, and to lighten up The Nelson Mandela Bay with the talent that he possesses.
Key player battles: Diego Forlan (Uruguay) vs Per Mertesacker (Germany)
One man stands between Germany and the third place – Diego Forlan – and it will be upto the German giant to keep him under control. Forlan has already showed that he can score breath-taking goals from distance and is equally adept at shooting with either foot. Mertesacker would do well to deny him space, or to be in the firing line if the Uruguan captain unleashes a vicious shot.