The battle for the bronze medal, the third/fourth place decider. The game that nobody wants to be involved in. The game that nobody wants to watch. The game that I can imagine not many of you really want to read about. This is understandable. It’s traditionally two teams who have given their all to reach the World Cup Final, only to fall at the final hurdle. In this instance Germany even fielded a weakened side, giving World Cup experience to a few of their fringe players. I won’t lie to you, valued reader, I am only discussing this game because on this particular date, it was the only match played over five World Cups. It may be the game that nobody is interested in, but on July 10th, 2010, Uruguay and Germany did actually throw up a relatively interesting game.
The first goal of the game came after just 19 minutes. Marcel Jansen carried the ball down the left flank, only to find himself being disposed by the tenacious Maxi Pereira. Pereira went to ground and hooked the ball away up field. The middle of the field was sparsely populated, allowing on the day Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger to regain possession for his team, some 40 yards from goal. Schweinsteiger moved the ball forward a little before smashing a monster shot at goal. Fernando Muslera made a real shambles of stopping the shot, lamely parrying the ball out into the centre of the box. Uruguayan centre halves, Diego Lugano and Diego Godin, both assumed that their goalkeeper would save the shot and consequently were nowhere near reaching the ball. Thomas Muller reacted quickly though, anticipating a goalkeeping blunder he raced beyond the defenders to tap the ball into the open net. Lugano was appealing for an offside flag, although this appeared to be a face saving exercise to account for his poor reading of the situation.
Ten minutes later and Uruguay had equalised. Bastian Schweinsteiger was dispossessed in the middle of the field by Diego Perez. The slide tackle by Perez pushed the ball forward to Luis Suarez, back from suspension after his red card against Ghana. Diego Forlan ran right, spreading the defence wide, and Edinson Cavani ran left. Suarez passed left to Cavani, who’s touch carried him into the box ahead of the meandering Per Mertesacker. Cavani eased the ball into the back of the net, leaving stand-in goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt unable to stop the shot.
It was becoming evident that both teams were very intent on winning this game. They were obviously distraught at not making it to the final, but both teams had an incredible winning mentality instilled in them and were throwing everything at each other.
Early on in the second and the Uruguayans had turned the game on its head. Egidio Arevalo Rios was the creator of the second goal. He took advantage of a loose ball and dribbled down the right wing. He played a short one-two with Luis Suarez, continuing his marauding run. He made it to the bye-line before cutting his cross back to the edge of the 18 yard box. This cross was met by Diego Forlan who twisted his body and struck the ball on the volley. The ball took a bounce which caught Butt short. It was a beautifully hit strike.
Uruguay had fought so hard to take the lead, yet it lasted only five minutes. Per Mertesacker played a short pass to new Manchester City defender Jerome Boateng. Boateng whipped in a cross to the edge of the six yard box. Marcel Jansen jumped above the defence to nod the cross past the flailing Fernando Muslera and into the empty net. The ‘keeper rushed out and attempted to punch the ball clear. He missed, however, making his second blunder of the game. Uruguay were playing some terrific football and yet their goalkeeper was throwing the game away for them.
Germany got the winning goal with ten minutes to go. Mesut Ozil curled in the corner into the middle of the six yard box. There was a mesh of bodies all competing for the ball and yet nobody could make any real contact with it. The ball bounced up and was met by the head of Sami Khedira. He leapt above the static defence to gift the Germans the lead. Fernando Muslera was standing on his line yet somehow found the ball looping over him. For a highly rated goalkeeper, he was having a howler. Luckily for the South Americans it was essentially a meaningless game.
Uruguay were awarded a free kick just outside the box, well within striking range. Diego Forlan, who had found some luck during the tournament from set pieces, stood over the ball. His strike beat the wall and past Hans-Jorg Butt in the process. Unfortunately for Uruguay, it bounced off the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
It was an outstanding tournament for the Uruguayans, who had topped an anybody can beat anybody group, thwarted South Korea in the pouring rain, fought dirty to knock out Ghana and lost a tight game to an awesome Dutch side. They had proven a lot of critics wrong in South Africa. There was no shame in losing to a team of Germany’s stature. It was a shame that they threw away the game due to a number of costly goalkeeping errors, although these errors only came about because of Germany’s attacking nature. The third/fourth playoff game is often perceived as a bit of a damp squib of a game, yet in South Africa, 2010, the game was actually more entertaining than the Final.
Tomorrow’s game: July 11th. Netherlands v Spain. 2010.