Germany, Uruguay fight for third as final looms
Losing semi-finalists Germany and Uruguay prepared to battle for third place on Saturday in a match neither of them wanted to be in, but global attention was more firmly fixed on the imminent World Cup final.sports Updated: Jul 10, 2010 19:47 IST
Losing semi-finalists Germany and Uruguay prepared to battle for third place on Saturday in a match neither of them wanted to be in, but global attention was more firmly fixed on the imminent World Cup final.
The third place playoff always has an air of anti-climax, as both teams absorb the shattering disappointment of missing out on the final and all the hype is about the next day's big game.
Spain face Netherlands at Soccer City on Sunday for soccer's ultimate prize which neither nation has ever lifted. The match also guarantees Europe's first World Cup win on foreign soil.
Germany and Uruguay, though, were determined to put on more than just a sideshow and prove why they both reached so far.
"Nobody needs to hang their heads low and we want to have a good final match," German coach Joachim Loew said.
Whatever happens later on Saturday, Germany's young team will be long remembered for their four-goal dismemberings of Argentina, England and Australia in earlier rounds.
Their opponents Uruguay have had an impressive tournament, reaching the semis for the first time in 40 years, but there is little doubt what they will be most remembered for -- the extraordinary finale to their quarter-final with Ghana.
In a game that will go down in World Cup lore, Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez handballed on the line in the dying seconds of extra time. He was sent off, Ghana missed the resulting penalty, and then Uruguay won a penalty shootout.
That prevented an African team reaching a semi-final for the first time in history, and sparked worldwide debate.
In Uruguay, Suarez's new "Hand of God" was hailed as a heroic, sacrificial and instinctive act, but many in Africa felt Ghana were deprived of a semi-final berth through cheating.
Uruguay's Diego Forlan, one of the players of the tournament with some scintillating strikes, said Uruguay were determined to go out on a high in Port Elizabeth.
"I really want to play for third place. Even that would be great for everyone," said the blond-locked Forlan, who has won legions of new fans -- many female -- in South Africa.
Spain, too, have been gathering fans galore in the host country due to their slick passing football. From kids imitating striker David Villa in Soweto township, to bankers drinking in Johannesburg's upmarket Sandton district, most of the locals seemed to think Spain had glory coming on Sunday.
Bookmakers, journalists and pundits worldwide were also overwhelmingly tipping Spain to win their first final.
The Dutch, though, have won their last 14 World Cup games, including qualifiers, and will be quietly confident their own skilful players can match Spain's famous midfield maestros.
Netherlands have an abundance of attacking talent, whereas Spain have been struggling to get anyone on the scoresheet other than Villa. He and Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder are tournament top scorers, both on five.
England had a miserable World Cup, but they at least have a referee representing them in the final.
Howard Webb, 38, is the first Englishman to handle a World Cup final since 1974 -- much to the surprise of his wife.
"He can't take charge of his own children. I don't know how he manages it on a football pitch!" Kay Webb told GMTV.
Global VIPs galore will be at Sunday evening's match in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium.
Fit again to join them is UEFA president Michel Platini. He fainted in a Johannesburg restaurant but was discharged from hospital on Saturday and given a clean bill of health.
UEFA official William Gaillard said Platini had been suffering from low blood sugar and a mild fever.
There have been mercifully few hiccups for organisers of Africa's first World Cup, confounding pessimists' predictions of chaos, crime and failure.
South Africans hope the world will look at them differently, perceptions of crime, poverty and an apartheid past giving way to images of fantastic new stadiums, modern transport systems, and blacks and whites side-by-side during a trouble-free month.
"People look at South Africa with new eyes and new understanding," local World Cup boss Danny Jordaan said.
"It was a moment of special unity."