The rain is falling in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, but that’s not going to stop the World Cup’s evil overlord as Sepp Blatter makes it out onto the pitch to meet the teams. The Uruguayan squad are not vieiwing the third place match as anything other than another battle and at the culmination of their National Anthem most of the squad break out into some old school warm-up exercises, all running on the spot and squat-thrusts. Germany have made a few squad changes meaning Bastian Schweinsteiger has taken over as captain from Philipp Lahm, the former possessing that rarest of things, a neck wider than his own head.
We’ve been promised a free-flowing match of goals and indeed Cacau has the ball inside the Uruguayan net inside three minutes, but the whistle has already gone for a handball by Thomas Muller. Any thoughts that the two teams may be treating this match casually are expunged just a couple of minutes later as Dennis Aogo puts in a terrible high challenge on Diego Perez. The German full-back gets a booking, but in the view of Craig Burley “that’s a red card”. Diego Forlan goes for goal from a free-kick but it’s blocked by the arm of Cacau and the Uruguayans surround the referee demanding action including Luis Suarez. “He’s had a memory lapse” suggests Burley. The outcome is a yellow card for Cacau and another Uruguayan free-kick, ten yards closer to goal, that Forlan strikes just wide.
Germany force a corner on the left which Schweinsteiger curls in to the six-yard box and Diego Godin clears with an unorthodox but necessary diving header. Uruguay look uncertain in the face of crosses from either flank and seconds later from a corner on the other side Arne Friedrich gets in a header at the far-post that comes back off the crossbar and as Muller tries to head it back to goal hes crowded out. Uruguay have stuck with the same defensive midfield pair that has stood them well through the tournament, the shaven headed duo of Perez and Egidio Arevalo Rios, never straying too far apart, they look like a pair of novelty salt and pepper pots.
Eighteen minutes into the game the deadlock is broken as the ball breaks free to Schweinsteiger in acres of space in midfield and the captain lets fly from distance. The Uruguayan defence simply watch it fly past them, and though Fernando Muslera saves it he cannot hold it and the only player following the shot in is Muller who calmly slots it into the bottom corner. The goal puts Muller joint top in the Golden Boot reckoning and Peter Drury tells us he has also been nominated for the Young Player of the Tournament accolade. “So Muller’s not involved in the Player of the Tournament, just the Young Player? Strange,” says Burley. Though it seems perfectly sensible to me.
Suarez is getting booed by the crowd each time he gets the ball, but it isn’t hampering his performance as his cross is met by the head of Forlan, but Per Mertesacker puts in enough of a challenge to prevent the header reaching goal. Within a couple of minutes the Uruguayans have their equaliser from an attack begun courtesy of a brilliant challenge from Perez in midfield as he takes the ball off the toe of Schweinsteiger and get up quickly to feed Suarez. The forward has Forlan and Edinson Cavani breaking with him and chooses to play in Cavani who slots the ball into the bottom corner of the net. The Uruguayans have another good chance soon afterwards as Suarez rolls another neat pass into Cavani who looks to have executed a perfect turn, but Friedrich stands firm to get a toe in and Germany clear.
It’s a game that is swinging from end to end and at the other end a neat turn by Mesut Ozil allows him to feed Cacau who holds the ball up with his back to goal and Diego Lugano, but the forward slips and the chance is gone. Uruguay have a great chance to edge ahead as Cavani releases Suarez in the right channel, entering the area he has time to weigh up his options, but he pulls his shot horribly wide of the far post. “Cruelly, in the rain, I have to say that has gone down very well,” says Drury. The half ends with a flurry of set-pieces. Schweinsteiger hits a free-kick which is headed over by Lugano in the wall before a corner in from right is fumbled by Muslera. From the error its Uruguay who break forward to earn a corner of their own which Forlan takes and almost catches out Hans Joerg Butt with an inswinging delivery that just clears the bar. In injury-time Cacau looks like he could be in on goal, but Jorge Fucile is across well from full-back to take it off his toe.
Half-time in the ITV studio and Adrian Chiles suggests that “Perez is either made of rubber or girders” as we watch Aogo’s studs clatter into the midfielder’s leg from a variety of different and increasingly painful looking angles. As this is the last time I will comment on ITV”s World Cup coverage within one of these match reports I have to ask, why does Andy Townsend never let go of his chair? Throughout half-time in this and every match he has always kept at least one hand gripping firmly on one of his arm rests like he’s trying to subdue the urge to lash out at one of his fellow pundits. Perhaps he’s struggling to with the effects of going Robbie Earle cold turkey?
Into the second half and Uruguay have a good early chance as Cavani gets in behind Germany again, Butt is out well to smother his effort though, and when the ball comes back to Cavani and he lays it off for Suarez, Butt saves again, getting a hand up to turn the ball behind. During a short lull in play Burley makes a valid point about the Uruguayan forward who is currently Africa’s public enemy number one. “All this booing for Suarez, any player in this tournament, with his team in the same situation, would have done the same thing, You expect him to just let it into his net?” Five minutes into the half Uruguay take the lead as Arevarlo Rios gets the furthest forward he’s been all tournament to deliver a cross from the right. His pass is met on the volley by Forlan on the edge of the box who strikes the ball into the turf and up into the net with Butt stranded. Replays show he may have struck it with his shin, but it’s still a fine goal.
The glory is short-lived as within a matter of minutes Germany have drawn level. Uruguay have struggled to deal with balls into the box all night and inevitably that’s how they concede the second goal. A cross from Jerome Boateng on the right brings Muslera off his line, but neither he nor two of his defenders manage to meet the ball six yards out, and instead it finds the net via the head of Marcell Jansen. Germany break again two minutes later as Cacau carries it forward and feeds Ozil, but after beating one man effectively the midfielder struggles to find a way past a second and Uruguay are able to clear their lines. On the hour mark Suarez, so roundly booed it’s a surprise he doesn’t appear on the ball in a cloud of green smoke cackling with laughter, carries the ball forward and drives a shot at goal, but Butt dives to his left to beat it away. Uruguay threaten once more as Cavani exchanges a one-two with Suarez to get into the area. The ball is deflected away from him, but into path of Forlan who is denied by Butt with both Cavani and Suarez screaming for it in the middle, the former taking out his frustration with a kick at the post.
Back at the other end Fucile turns a through ball back towards Muslera who calmly picks it up with the German bench claiming for a pass-back. Give all that Germany have done in this tournament it’s quite a surprise that it takes this incident to make Joachim Low the most animated he’s ever been, not even when he was fronting Roxy Music did he flail his arms about so wildly as he does here. Germany are enjoying a decent spell at this point with Jansen cutting inside from the left to pull an effort just wide and Cacau slicing a volley over the bar. Cacau is withdrawn soon after and his replacement Stefan Kiessling is next to threaten with quarter of an hour to go as he too cuts in from the left with a neat dummy and hits a firm shot at goal that Muslera gets behind to save. Eventually German pressure tells with ten minutes left as an Ozil corner hits Friedrich at the far post then the knees of Lugano to bounce into the path of Sami Khedira who heads it over Muslera and under the bar to put Germany 3-2 ahead.
Uruguay are not a side to roll over and they begin to push men forward leading to an end to end finish to the game, though its Germany who have the better chances. Boateng drives a shot from distance that Muslera holds well diving to his left and then the European side break minutes later with Boateng again getting forward to play in Kiessling, but the sub, wide open in the penalty area puts his shot over the bar. It’s a tense final few minutes, not least for Sedar Tasci, the only German outfield player yet to be involved on the pitch is waiting to come on, but the ball won’t go out of play. Tasci eventually gets thirty seconds, but is a few centimetres away from getting thirty minutes.Suarez is pulled down by Friedrich on the edge of the German area and Uruguay have one last chance from a free-kick. Forlan takes it, gets the ball over the wall, and over Butt, and against the crossbar. The final whistle sounds before the ball has made it back down to earth and Forlan can only give a rueful smile, as Germany partake in low-key celebrations befitting of third place.