Germans fight back to finish third
PORT ELIZABETH - Germany showed its legendary resilience on Saturday by coming from behind to beat Uruguay 3-2 in a thrilling third-place World Cup playoff.
Having led early on, the Germans fell behind 2-1 early in the second half but equalized soon after, and Sami Khedira headed home the winner with eight minutes remaining. There was still time for great chances at both ends with Diego Forlan hitting the bar with an injury-time free kick.
Forlan and Thomas Mueller, who scored Germany’s opener, both finished the tournament with five goals, pulling even with Spain’s David Villa and Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands - both of whom can of course add to their tally in Sunday’s final.
“When we were trailing, we could see the strength of this team. I’m so happy to see them turn it around,” said coach Joachim Loew, assistant to Juergen Klinsmann four years ago when Germany also finished third on its home soil.
“Champions rise again, we rose to the occasion again. We have every reason to be fully satisfied, no reason for disappointment, we will travel home feeling great.”
Uruguay, too, deserves huge credit for its attacking approach in the match but had to settle for fourth, just as the team did the last time it reached the semi-finals in 1970 when Uruguay was also beaten by then-West Germany in the playoff.
“We showed our purpose and intentions, on a level playing field against a great opponent,” said Uruguay manager Oscar Tavarez.
“We showed we can play any team in the world, there’s nothing above this. We lost, but we could have won.”
Saturday’s game was the sixth time in a row at the 2010 tournament that a European team beat a South American one - turning the tables completely from the six-game sequence at the start of the World Cup when South Americans were unbeaten against Europeans.
Miroslav Klose’s bid to net the one goal he needed to join Ronaldo at the top of the all-time World Cup scorer’s list at 15 apiece, ended when he was ruled out with the flu and spent the match on the bench looking very pale alongside fellow victims Lukas Podolksi and Philipp Lahm.
Attention turned instead to the race for the tournament’s golden boot when Mueller scored after 19 minutes, following Fernando Muslera’s failure to hold onto Bastian Schweinsteiger’s long-range shot.
Uruguay tied the score at 28 minutes through Edinson Cavani after Diego Perez robbed Schweinsteiger at the halfway line. Uruguay continued to surge forward after the break and went ahead in the 51st minute when Forlan expertly volleyed in a cross by Egidio Arevalo, only for Marcell Jansen to rise up to head in a cross from Jerome Boateng five minutes later.
As the rain poured down to add an extra element of drama, the game surged from box to box with Luis Suarez, who was booed at every touch by sections of the crowd unimpressed by his handball against Ghana, missing several good chances and substitute Stefan Kiessling blasting over a sitter for the Germans.
Just as extra time looked likely, Germany struck again as a Mesut Ozil corner bounced around in the six-yard box before Khedira headed it in.
There was still time for Uruguay to launch a series of attacks, and with the very last kick of the match, Forlan curved in a superb free kick only to sink to his knees in disbelief as it crashed against the crossbar and out to safety.
“It just missed by a fraction,” said the striker, who has been one of the revelations of the tournament not just for his scoring prowess, but also his work ethic and boundless energy.
“I’m pretty tired but it’s over now and it’s time to rest.”
Uruguay, so close to elimination by Ghana in the quarter-finals, will go home to a heroes’ welcome after its best performance in 40 years and although German fans are more used to their team reaching the finals, they too will no doubt appreciate the efforts of their young team, which handed both England and Argentina four-goal thrashings.
“We’ve done well here,” said Khedira. “But next time we want to get to the next level.” Reuters