Saturday, 10th July – 7:30pm
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Third Place Play-Off
There has been critics over FIFA’s traditional ‘Third Place Play-Off’ encounter between the two teams who failed to make the final cut, which on this occasions happens to be Uruguay and Germany. Many believe that the tournament for both country’s is effectively over and that both parties would rather head home early instead of having to contest what many deem a ‘pointless’ game. FIFA, though, have insisted that there is still a lot of to play for, pride the foremost reward whereas ranking points are also in the mix. Quite frankly, considering the two teams in questions have given their all up to this point but in the end have ultimately failed in their quest to become world champions in South Africa 2010, we feel they deserve an early break especially as the domestic season now looms large. This play-off does, however, go ahead and with many a tired mind and legs in either camp, some of the squad players may receive some pitch time on Saturday despite FIFA’s best effort to boost the hype of this match.
Only the shrewd few will have backed Uruguay to win the entire competition, at which the South Americans were around 100/1 to achieve such an unthinkable feat beforehand. Those who did have every right to feel slightly hard done, at the very minimum a little unlucky, that the tenacious and remarkably hard-working Uruguayans didn’t make the final frame, but instead have little choice but to tussle with Germany with third place. Despite no-one really expecting Uruguay to have much say in South Africa, picking up third place, should they beat Germany on Saturday, will be of little consolation to a nation which harboured high hopes of securing their third World Cup crown. Nevertheless, we expect Uruguay to give it their all once again on Saturday, as Oscar Tabarez’s men seek out a first third place finish in a FIFA World Cup.
Uruguay’s record in third place play-off’s isn’t great, lousy in fact, with the South Americans unwillingly posting a 100% losing record in such a fixture, losing to Austria in the 1954 finals in Switzerland and then coming up short in 1970 to the same opponents they face on Saturday, Germany, although back then the Germans were called West Germany. There is no time like the present to better such a disappointing record, especially as third place play-off’s don’t come around all that often. However, amid reports that Diego Forlan isn’t 100% fit and could miss Uruguay’s final game of the tournament, it’s difficult to see Uruguay having the necessary fire-power to overhaul the tournament’s leading scorers despite forward Luis Suarez’s return after a one match suspension.
It was a shame that Luis Suarez wasn’t available for the semi-final clash with Holland, as Uruguay matched their more glamours opponents in work rate, commitment and endeavour but lacked that something extra special, that cutting edge and class, in the final third which cost them so dearly. He deserved his suspension don’t get us wrong, but Uruguay relied too heavily upon the brilliance of Diego Forlan, who took his tally in South Africa to four with a superb equaliser from distance. At that point Uruguay were well and truly back in the game at 1-1, but there were momentary lapses of concentration in the second half which they paid a heavy price for and were something similar to occur on Saturday, against a team we honestly believe is far more ruthless than the Dutch, Uruguay will be punished once more.
We can understand how their exertions so far will have taken their toll, while their efforts throughout their stay in South Africa have been commendable, but if Uruguay can somehow find a second wind, dig deep and grab some energy reserves then a possible third place finish could be on the cards. Although the main prize has passed them by, third place in the world’s biggest sporting spectacle is nothing to be sniffed at and is certainly worth going that last mile for. They’ll arguably require a more collective performance against the Germans, which is saying something as Uruguay were valiant in defeat against Holland, but this isn’t an impossible encounter for them.
Of the two teams involved in this play-off encounter, the Germans will feel the most bitter about playing such a fixture. Not because they feel the game is unworthy, simply because the players genuinely thought they could go all the way after securing colossal victories over Argentina and England, so the fact they missed out on their eighth final appearance by one solitary goal will cut the players deep. With that in mind, it’s now perhaps a little difficult seeing the Germans lifting themselves, mentally and physically, in time for this third place clash with Uruguay. Then again, the Germans have a formidable record when it comes to third place play-off’s boasting three wins and one defeat, while they’re just a win away from finishing third in a World Cup for the second successive tournament having done so four years ago on home soil.
It is unusual for the rest of the world to get behind the Germans, not least because of their antics during the 20th century, but that was the case in South Africa 2010, with Die Mannschaft building a vast following after some sensational victories and some breathtaking displays. Germany, without a shadow of a doubt, have been the best footballing team at these finals and look to have every chance of finishing as the tournament’s most prolific team, with Joachim Low’s men racking up 13 goals in six games. An emphatic victory over Uruguay, much like their victories over England (4-1) and Argentina (4-0), would make the task for Holland, who play 24 hours later in the final against Spain, almost impossible as the Dutch are one behind Germany in the scoring charts (12).
While there is a chance Joachim Low could hand starts to some of his fringe players, those in the squad but haven’t had the opportunity to embrace the tournament as of yet, we very much doubt Low will take the match for granted. The core of the side which got them this far should all start; Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Podolski, Mertesacker, whereas Thomas Muller, whose absence against Spanish was certainly felt, should make an immediate return to the Germany fore. If there are doubts over the starting credentials of some, there is none whatsoever regarding Miroslav Klose. The Bayern Munich forward isn’t just hot on the heels of David Villa for the Golden Boot, currently trailing by one goal and chasing his second Golden Boot, he’s one shy of equalling Ronaldo’s all-time scoring record of 15 goals scored in World Cup finals. There’s no chance Joachim Low will ruin what is a Golden opportunity for Klose, who has scored just as many goals in these finals than he did throughout the whole of last season in the Bundesliga.
It’s hard to comprehend the disappointing and misery the Germany players must be feeling after coming so close to a record eighth final but falling at the final hurdle. However, there a resilient bunch and with many wise and mature heads in camp, don’t expect any let up from the three-time champions. The Germans thrive off competition and while laying claim to being 2010’s third best footballing nation is of little solace for their eventual shortcomings, they will nevertheless approach this game in the same professional manner which has seen them establish themselves as one of the world’s leading international players. Four years ago they overcame the huge disappointment of missing out on the final when losing to Italy in the semi’s, and later went on to thrash Portugal 3-1 to secure third place. If anything, the Germans have been known to enter into ‘wounded mode’ after the rare occurrence of a defeat, so the South Americans better be aware that the Germans are on the prowl.
Match Verdict: Germany to WIN – 1.68
Uruguay, despite somehow clawing one back in the dying minutes against Holland in an exciting semi-final, eventually losing 3-2, appeared to be on their last legs. An enduring tournament looks to have taken its toll and the certainly won’t appreciate having to take on a German side which more times than not bounces back from defeat with a victory next time out.
Germany have a 75% winning record in third place play-off’s, with only France way back in 1958 beating the Germans in this fixture. To add to the fact that Uruguay appeared mentally and physically drained against the Dutch in their last encounter, the Germans have far more fire-power and will even welcome back a fresh Thomas Muller, who is in contention to be the tournament’s Golden Ball (Best performer) winning. And with Miroslav Klose hungry for goals in order to break a few records, you’d be foolish to oppose Joachim Low’s Germany. We see another emphatic victory on the cards.