… Deep down, wasn’t there just a small part of you, at least, that was convinced that Diego Forlán’s free kick right at the end of stoppage time was going to go in and draw Uruguay level against Germany in Saturday’s 2010 FIFA World Cup third-place game?
It would have fit right with the script in a tournament that has seen more than one buzzer beater. And it would have fit for the type of performances we saw from Forlán throughout this event. The free kick, of course, just hit off the crossbar, sinking Uruguay’s hopes for third place along with it, as Germany won the match, 3-2. The Germans were 2-1 down early in the second half when Forlán himself scored on a wacky, body-twisting volley to give his nation the lead. Germany quickly responded through Marcell Jansen, and went ahead for good on Sami Khedira’s 81st-minute strike.
But it wasn’t until Forlán’s effort careened safely away to Germany’s liking that the match was decided. It was open, fun to watch, and a blast in the face of critics who think third-place games are a waste of time. Personally, I enjoyed it, and I’d have to think that most folks who watched it did, as well.
For Germany, it isn’t necessarily a satisfaction to run third in back-to-back World Cups (especially having hosted in 2006). But much has been made about Germany’s youth and that certainly took hold in this tournament. Thomas Müller is tied for the tourney lead with five goals, and hasn’t even turned 21 yet. Mesut Özil has been regarded as one of the World Cup’s breakout players, and he’s just 22. Number-one goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is 24.
Even if Miroslav Klose steps away with 14 World Cup goals all-time, there’s no shortage of talent in the pipeline. And as a wildcard, Klose is “only” 32. You wouldn’t think him automatic for 2014, but if he can find club form and stay fit, you never know what his future might hold.
If you were making up a list of favorites for Brazil 2014, you’d probably have to put the hosts up top, but Germany would be a close second. Much can change in four years, of course, but I can’t imagine Germany suffering some kind of disappointment or chaos in four years such that Italy and France did in this tournament.
For Uruguay, they deserve a hero’s welcome when they get home. Consider, they finished higher in this World Cup (4th) than they did in their CONMEBOL qualifying league (5th). They needed to win a playoff vs. Costa Rica just to make the World Cup – and here they were playing on the final weekend. Largely due to Forlán, and a bit of handy work from Luis Suárez vs. Ghana. They were victimized yesterday, though, by mistakes from goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Ironically, Uruguay were beaten by German goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt, on a day when their own keeper played like ass.
But as far as Uruguay were concerned, it was Forlán’s tournament, and Uruguay had a fantastic run. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be up there in 2014, but for this one event, they shined pretty bright.
Oh yeah … the final is today.
Spain meet Holland in a battle of countries who have never won the World Cup. The exclusive 7-nation club of all-time winners will get a new entrant, its first since France gained entry in 1998 (oh does that seem long ago). Prior to that, Argentina in 1978 was the last “new” nation to win. So this is something to be savored, because it doesn’t happen often.
As has been mentioned here, before the tournament I picked Holland. And they’ve won every match they’ve played. They will have to seriously account for Spain leading scorer David Villa – not only in the buildup, but after a shot has been unleashed by one of his teammates, or during chaos in the penalty area. Villa has popped up all over the place in dangerous spots to clean up the mess after opponents don’t handle the initial attack.
Holland’s Wesley Sneijder must continue to be his country’s best player for one more game, and it would help him if teammate Arjen Robben stayed on his feet a bit more today. He’s wonderfully creative when he does, but has flopped a bit too much for my liking – which isn’t new to him. The Holland back line must play together and solid, because Spain, whether it’s Villa or someone else, will pounce on the slightest error.
Holland have to play at a tremendously high level to win this match – and if both teams play their best, it might be bad news. But I’ve been faithful to this point, so I’m not turning back now.
Holland 1-0 Spain
Saturday’s Record: 0-1.
Tournament Record: 35-28.