I had been planning on watching the World Cup’s third place play-off because I wanted to squeeze the last drops out of this World Cup, but also because I was unsure of what to expect from it. On one hand I could see an open, free-flowing, attacking game – the game in the World Cup with comparatively little to play for and thus less pressure but equally high levels of passion. But on the other hand I could see the factor of this being an ‘unimportant game’ equalling a drab, lifeless affair where the only decision both teams cared about was when the final whistle would blow.
Of course I hoped for the former.
The former is what I got. Even though both team’s achievements after the World Cup will be reaching the semi-finals as opposed to where they actually finish on Saturday night, they both wanted to win the game.
It was one last hurrah for two teams who have created two of the best stories from this World Cup – Germany’s demolition of Argentina and Uruguay’s thriller against Ghana. But it also served a purpose for individual players. Those who had an eye on the golden boot and those who would not play in another World Cup had a last chance to make an impact.
The first half sprung into life with Germany playing the no-fear, expansive, passing football which has brought them so many new fans and admirers over the last four weeks. They deservingly took the lead when Muller reacted quickest to a goalkeeping error and brought himself into the reckoning for the coveted Golden Boot. If anyone doubted the passion before the game, Schweinsteiger’s reaction to giving the ball away prior to Uruguay’s goal showed how much he wanted to win it.
To say that the second half started in the vein of that first half ended may be doing it an injustice. Forlan’s superbly controlled volley not only gave Uruguay a lead, but also shook up the race for the Golden Boot even further, bringing him level with Muller, Villa and Sneijder. If you’d made a cup of tea after that goal, you’d have missed Germany’s equaliser. The final 2-3 score line in favour of Germany seemed justified in regards both to the game itself and the tournament as a whole. Two consecutive 3rd place finishes is one hell of an achievement.
Neither team wanted to lose, but equally neither team was scared to lose – attitudes unique in this World Cup. These things combined equalled an engrossing and enjoyable 90 minutes and answered any questions that I had before the game. The final whistle brought no trophy, just the pride of coming 3rd and the satisfaction of winning a fifth game at this year’s World Cup. What England would have given for that?