Uruguay brought on the team they wish had been fit and card-cleared for their match against Holland. The return of Lugano and Suárez to the starting line-up was particularly pleasing to the fans. Germany’s starting 11 was an altered squad. A couple of mainstays were under the weather, Klose had a back problem, Butt was in goal…
The pissing rain and Nelson Mandela Stadium’s typically poor pitch condition added to the drama of the emotionally-charged match. Some say the 3rd place play-off is a meaningless fixture. Meaningless in terms of glory and glamour, maybe — but when teams have nothing but pride to play for, more often than not, they play a damn good game.
Uruguay v Germany 2010 didn’t disappoint. The match was open, free-flowing, and exciting from kick-off to final whistle. Chances were taken and chances were missed. Good calls were made, bad calls, too. There were perfectly-timed tackles and brutally poor ones, successful and disastrous link-up play, long balls, set-plays, shots-on-goal that were neatly gathered, shots that were perilously spilled, shots that came off the crossbar, shots that caressed the wrong side of the uprights. And there were plenty of goals.
Müller put Germany ahead at 19 minutes. (That boy is a real talent; we’ll be seeing a lot of him in years ahead.) Just 9 minutes later, Schweinsteiger (of all people) was dispossessed midfield. Uruguay took off on the break and Cavani finished with style.
On the other side of the interval, Uruguay took the lead through a beauty of a goal by the irrepressible Diego Forlán, then lost it almost immediately by allowing Jansen to head the ball into an unguarded net. It was neck-and-neck through a ferociously fought 2nd half until the final stretch, when Khedira capitalized on a corner from Özil by heading a wild ball off the bounce well past Uruguay’s over-taxed keeper.
Could Uruguay keep the see-saw going and equalize yet again? They got their chance in the very last seconds of the game, from a free kick just outside the box. Forlán’s wonderful effort came within an inch of putting the game into extra time. The chance careened off the crossbar.
No glory, no glamour. Yeah, but a respectable loss. A bittersweet victory. And a damn good game.