19th FIFA World Cup - South Africa 2010
11 June to 11 July 2010
THIRD-PLACE CONSOLATION FINAL
1D/GERMANY 3, 1A/URUGUAY 2
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium - Port Elizabeth
Referee: Benito Archundia (Mexico)
The two losing semifinalists still had one match left to play before returning home from South Africa for an abbreviated summer rest before the all-too-soon start of the club season throughout Europe and other various points around the globe. Both teams came into the bronze medal matchup with a key component of their respective attacks returned from suspension. For Germany, four-goal wunderkind Thomas Muller was back to provide his electric pace to the offense of Die Mannschaft. On Uruguay's side, Luis Suarez -- the bane of Ghana after his handball on the goal line prevented a sure winner for the Black Stars and much maligned for his comments following the shootout survival of the Charruas -- was back after just one game away despite the threats by FIFA to ban him longer due to the unrepentant, wholly intentional nature of his red-card foul. It would be a wide-open match, neither side holding anything back as both coaches, Germany's Joachim Low and Uruguay's Oscar Tabarez, knew all that was left was this one modicum of pride after missing out on the big final.
It was also a rematch of the consolation final from forty years ago, the last time Uruguay had reached this point of a tournament, when none other than (West) Germany defeated them 1-0 in Mexico City. Then, the only thing that separated the two teams was midfielder Wolfgang Overath's 26th minute score. Uruguay, ultimately, was playing for its first World Cup medals in six decades -- not since 1950, when they defeated Brazil in the Maracana before 200,000 silent hostile partisans, had the nation of just three million and change placed amongst the top three. For Germany, this was familiar territory. Four years ago, as hosts, the German side had lost to eventual champions Italy in extra time before taking their lost-championship frustrations out on Portugal 3-1 in the consolation. Both sides had ample motivation as the match got underway in Port Elizabeth.
The Germans had the better run of things early in the contest. A corner kick in the 10th minute found the head of left back Arne Friedrich. Having scored in the 4-0 blowout of Argentina, it nearly looked like the defender had a second in the tournament... but then it clanged off the crossbar, ricocheting right back to his teammate Thomas Muller on the opposite side. Muller would one-time the shot back toward the net, but it was blocked away and cleared out by Uruguay.
The next gilded opportunity would come eight minutes later in the match, Uruguay now starting to press forward. Of course, throughout the tournament we had seen Germany exploit teams on the counterattack when the opposition dared to swarm up into the attacking third in numbers. On the action that would result in the opening goal, though, Uruguay had plenty of defenders back, seven behind the ball against the six Germany had advanced. Marcell Jansen, with the ball on the left, centered the ball to Bastian Schweinsteiger. The midfielder, taking a few steps to settle, blasted a hard shot on goal that popped through the crowd. Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera, seeing the shot, was unable to control it. The Jabulani bounced off his legs and directly, magnetically, right back to Muller's feet. This time the youngster didn't falter, drilling the rebound into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Less than ten minutes later, Uruguay would level the scoreline. A great slide tackle by Diego Perez at midfield dispossessed Schweinsteiger before he could really get the German attack started. The nest thing the Europeans knew, Perez had flicked on to Luis Suarez, who feinted the two German center-backs before finding Edinson Cavani coming up the left side. With the defender's back to Cavani, the forward streaked into space to take the pass onside. He stormed into the box, unleashing a shot that Germany's keeper, Hans-Jorg Butt (getting his first-ever opportunity to start for Germany in goal in place of Manuel Neuer after an illustrious season at Bayern Munich), was never going to be able to do anything about. The score would stand knotted at 1-1 as the whistle blew for halftime.
Coming back out after the break, Uruguay seemed more motivated to take charge of the match than they had at the beginning of the first half. Cavani got another great chance through on goal three minutes after the restart, Butt getting to the near post to block the effort. The ball was punched right back to Cavani, who slotted it on to the feet of a streaking Suarez. But Butt launched himself from the ground to deny the young Ajax striker as well, preserving the draw. It would last just three more minutes, though, Diego Forlan getting his fifth goal of the tournament to draw level with Muller, Spain's David Villa and the Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder at the top of the race for the Golden Boot as top scorer of the Cup. It came just inside the edge of the box, his first non-penalty goal scored from inside that demarcation line in South Africa. The 51st-minute shot, leaving Butt standing statuesque in goal as the score became 2-1, gave new hope to the South Americans.
It also, however, reawakened the German juggernaut. Within five minutes, the score would be equalized once again as Marcell Jansen rose up to meet a cross from the right flank and beat Muslera's gloves to the ball, a powerful redirection of the ball making the score 2-2 and the match anyone's to win... or lose. Possession played back and forth, neither side cracking the other's defenses. Time wound down, ten minutes left until stoppage time, and then the Germans finally broke the deadlock and prevented the consolation from reaching extra time. Sami Khedira, pressing up on a corner kick, mimicked Jansen's goal perfectly. The ball was stopped in front of him in the box as he stood right in pretty much the exact spot form which Jansen scored, bounced into the air, and Khedira leaped up to nod it on past Muslera for what would ultimately prove the match winner.
Uruguay desperately fought for their own equalizer, but alas it was never to come. Germany would ensure that, for a second straight tournament, all of the podium places in the World Cup belonged exclusively to Europe. For all the talk about Africa's time to shine before the touranment began and South America's dominance heading into the knockout round, the patricians of the beautiful game once again came out doggedly on top. All we have left now to await is to see which of the finalists will end up hoisting the Cup itself as first-time champions...