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FIFA World Cup: Germany clinch third place with thrilling 3-2 win against Uruguay

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An 82nd minute winner from tireless midfield warhorse Sami Khedira helped an exceptionally young German unit pip Uruguay 3-2 in the third place play-off of the FIFA World Cup. Thomas Muller had given Germany the early lead, only for Edinson Cavani to even-up proceedings midway through the first half. Uruguay took the lead in the 51st minute through a Diego Forlan stunner, only to be pegged back themselves 5 minutes later by a Marcell Jensen header. The match produced some incredibly entertaining football, and was right up there for game of the tournament with chances aplenty at both ends. Khedira's late header after some poor defending by Uruguay appeared to have put the game to bed only for Uruguay to provide some late drama with Forlan striking a free-kick onto the crossbar with what was the last touch of the contest.

The two line-ups were incredibly contrasting, with Uruguay naming a very much first choice eleven, further strengthened by the early return from injury of skipper Diego Lugano. Lugano slotted into his customary position in the heart of defence with his namesake Diego Godin, while a third Diego, Forlan led the side in what has been a classic Ururguayan 4-3-3 formation all tournament. The Uruguayans also welcomed back the legendary hand of Luis Suarez (and the rest of him as well) and had Edinson Cavani running the channels alongside him.

In complete contrast, the Germans made wholesale changes to their squad with veteran goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt making his first international appearance in seven years! Disappointingly Miroslav Klose, just 1 short of Ronaldo's (of Brazil) World Cup record of 15 goals, was named on the subs bench due to a reported back injury. Lukas Podolski and Philipp Lahm both missed the game due to the flu, while Piotr Trochowski made way for the returning Thomas Muller, who had 4 goals and 3 assists coming into this game. Others benefiting from the changes were Brazilian born striker Cacau, Marcell Jansen and Dennis Aogo. The German formation attempted to mirror their usual 4-2-3-1, but with no Podolski, there was no natural attacking influence on the left wing.

World Cup 3rd place play-off games are known for their rather adventurous nature, and this match too sprang to life almost instantly. Thomas Muller had the ball in the back of the net inside the first 4 minutes, but the whistle had long gone for an infringement by Cacau. Just a minute later Aogo went in exceptionally high on Diego Perez, and had that tackle taken place a little later in the game we would have surely have seen a straight red. Fortunately for the 23-year old Hamburg defender and for the neutrals, the game stayed eleven against eleven with the youngster escaping with just a yellow.

In the 7th minute Forlan had a couple of bites of the cherry, with some free-kicks from range, but found the hand of Cacau blocking his first effort before skewing his second wide. The action continued to be end to end with Arne Friedrich almost getting his second goal of the tournament (and his career!) only for the woodwork to deny Germany taking the lead.

thomas_muller1.jpgOn 19 minutes, Muller showed his hunger for goals latching onto a spill from Fernando Muslera to give Germany a well deserved lead. Bastian Schweinsteiger showed his more adventurous side taking on a rare shot from distance and the Uruguayan keeper made a mess of what should have been a routine catch (yes they will blame the Jubalani again). But full credit to the young Bayern Munich forward, Muller, who was first to the rebound by miles, taking off as soon as the shot was hit and was rewarded for his endeavour with the simplest of finishes.

Uruguay were quick to bounce back, almost scoring through Cavani in the 26th minute, only to be denied by Friedrich doing his job well on the line. The equalizer did come though just a couple of minutes later with skipper for the day Schweinsteiger caught in possession by Diego Perez, who released the ball to Luis Suarez. With both the German full backs high up the pitch, the Uruguayans had a 3 on 2 situation, and Suarez picked out Cavani, who finished expertly past Butt.

The first half continued to thrill despite the buckets full of rain falling in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and Germany were beginning to look like a spent force going forward with Mesut Oezil looking completely exhausted out there in the middle and misplacing passes left, right and center. The absence of Podolski out on the left flank was also a huge miss for Germany, who lacked one of their most potent attacking threats. Uruguay should have taken a lead with them into the break, with Luis Suarez through on goal following another excellent counter attack, only to flash his powerful right foot shot wide of the far post. Germany had a couple of half chances of their own from set-plays, but were unable to capitalize as a thoroughly entertaining half of football ended perhaps deservedly all square.

forlan_celebrates.jpgBoth sides looked threatening right from the start of the second period of play, with Germany earning an early corner while Uruguay forced a double save out of Hans-Jurg Butt. Uruguay took a well deserved lead in the 51st minute with their talismanic striker Diego Forlan producing another piece of South American magic. Schweinsteiger worked hard to prevent an Uruguay throw, only for Cacau to gift possession back to Uruguay in a dangerous area, and Arevalo Rios did brilliantly to beat Aogo and put in an inch perfect cross to a waiting Forlan on the edge of the box to smash into the ground and past a forlorn Butt. The goal was fair reward for Uruguay's work ethic, but the lead didn't last long.

Five minutes later the game was back on level terms and the third place play-off had got its customary quota of 4 goals. Jerome Boateng, switched to right-back in Lahm's absence swung in a hopeful cross from a deep position towards the far post, and the lone German in the Uruguay box, left-back Marcell Jensen, deployed in the Podolski role today, met it to restore parity. Muslera again was culpable, having come for the ball and missed it, leaving an unguarded net behind him.

The excitement continued unabated with Oezil failing to take advantage of a 3 on 2, Suarez and Forlan both drawing good saves from Butt and Germany appealing excessively for a non-existent back pass.

It took 73 minutes for either coach to decide to change things, with unsurprisingly the Germans opting to bring on a fresh face, with a considerably stronger bench on show. Cacau came off seconds after a shot in anger and a long argument with Lugano, to be replaced by young German striker Stefan Kiessling. Sadly, it appeared there was to be no swan song for veteran striker Miroslav Klose. Kiessling drew a save from Muslera almost instantaneously, while Uruguay too made a change, brining on Walter Gargano for what must have been an exhausted Diego Perez.

Germany took the lead for the second and final time on the night through another unlikely source in Sami Khedira. The midfielder who has given everything for his side right through this World Cup campaign had a winning goal to show for his efforts, putting a looping header into the net after complete chaos in the box from a German corner. Khedira was the fortunate recipient of the ball barely a few yards out, and adjusted his body well to beat the keeper.

Kiessling should have put the game to rest in the 88th minute, missing from point blank range after being played through one on one with Muslera. The Bayer Leverkusen striker lacked the composure, taking the chance first time and lifting his effort over the bar.

The game had one final piece of drama with the least favourite man in Africa, Luis Suarez, earning a free kick just outside the box in injury time. Diego Forlan stepped up to take the free-kick, and curled his effort over the wall and beat the keeper only to see the ball crash back into play off the crossbar, to end what was an incredible match which neither team deserved to lose.

It was a sad end to the tournament for Uruguay, who suffered their second straight 3-2 defeat, with both teams very much deserving of coming away with the commemorative third place medal. Diego Forlan especially hardly deserved to be on the losing side after a stellar World Cup campaign that has seen him score 5 goals. At 31, he might just have made his last World Cup appearance for Uruguay and what a way to bring the curtain down on a lion hearted campaign. Germany on the other hand also had a memorable four weeks in South Africa and would be relieved to not leave empty handed after having come so close to going all the way. With most of this squad under 25, you can expect them to come back hungrier in 2014, and be a real force to reckon with in Brazil.

What a perfect appetizer for Sunday's finale, and one can only hope that Netherlands and Spain do justice to the standards on display today!

Teams:

Uruguay: Muslera (gk), Lugano (c), Godin, Fucile, Pereira, Perez (Gargano 77'), Arevalo, Cavani, Caceres, Suarez, Forlan.

Germany: Butt (gk), Jansen (Kroos 81'), Friedrich, Mertesacker, Boateng, Mueller, Aogo, Khedira,Schweinsteiger (c), Cacau (Kiessling 73'), Oezil (Tasci 90+1')

Final Scoreline: Germany 3 - 2 Uruguay

Uruguay: Cavani 28', Forlan 51'
Germany: Muller 18', Jansen 56', Khedira 82'

Also Read: Spain vs Netherlands Match Preview

Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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