Germany and Uruguay commit to race for third place

The World Cup's third-place play-off has often carried an air of the game nobody wants to play, a meeting of losing semi-finalists with at least one eye on the flight schedule home and little to play for beyond the hope of a slightly milder feeling of anticlimax.

Tomorrow evening's third-place match in Port Elizabeth, between Germany and Uruguay, will at least carry personal significance for a number of players. Three, Diego Forlan, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, are in the running for Fifa's Golden Ball award, for the player of the tournament, which will be announced on Sunday.

Thomas Muller, the Germany striker who scored twice against England, is one of three men nominated for the young player award. All the above are set to start in a match that will provide Germany with the opportunity to finish third at the World Cup for a second time running. For Uruguay, third place would be their best finish since 1950 and the striker Luis Suarez, who returns from suspension, says this is a match with a significance far beyond the personal.

"For this squad, the World Cup is not over yet. Now what's left is to play to the death for third place," Suarez said.

These sentiments were echoed by his manager, Oscar Tabarez. "We have no guarantee we will win but we will prepare ourselves for a fight to the death," he said. "The challenge for Uruguay is to finish third in the World Cup. I know Germany and they will make it very difficult for us, so we must fight hard to win."

While Fifa will be delighted to hear its pre-final match receiving such passionate avowals of commitment, the subplot of individual honours will be intensified by Suarez and Forlan having an outside shot at securing the Golden Boot, for the tournament's leading scorer.

Uruguay's strikers have four goals each. Two more tomorrow and a blank in the final for David Villa of Spain and Wesley Sneijder of Holland may be enough to earn either man the coveted award. Germany's Miroslav Klose, who is a doubt for the match thanks to a back injury, has also scored four but he has a bigger prize to aim for: one more World Cup goal would make him the tournament's all-time joint top scorer, with Ronaldo of Brazil.

It remains to be seen whether such personal incentives can inspire a third-place match to remember. Fifa will at least be hoping for a happier climax to the race for the Golden Ball than the last tournament provided. Four years ago in Germany Zinedine Zidane of France was voted player of the World Cup, an award that was announced shortly after he was sent off for headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi in the final.

© Guardian News and Media 2010

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 3:31:38 PM |

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