Three defensive lapses, a lack of concentration on the finishing side and finally the crossbar cost Uruguay third place and a great ending to their excellent World Cup run. Germany ended the tournament on the same podium as four years ago after a successful campaign that exceeded expectations and launched a new era in German football with a core of young players that will only get better. It was a highly entertaining third place match that set the stage perfectly for the Grand Finale, only the cold rain to contend with for the animated crowd.
The hero of the Ghana penalty shoot-out, Uruguayan goal-keeper Fernando Muslera, had a poor game this time around and was responsible for at least two of the three German goals. Germany went ahead when a crackling shot from Schweinsteiger directly at Muslera was blocked right into the path of a charging Thomas Mueller for a fairly easy tap in. Uruguay took control of the match in the latter part of the first half, first equalizing on a beautiful Edinson Cavani goal and then going ahead on an sensational goal by Diego Forlan. Just when it seemed as if Uruguay was unlikely to relinquish the lead for the rest of the way, Muslera made another gaffe, mistiming a cross that was easily headed in for an equalizer.
The winner came on a collective lapse of concentration in the Uruguayan defense, a scrambling goal that caught Muslera again in the wrong place. Like in the Holland match the South Americans went all out for the equalizer and pressed for the dramatic equalizer that eluded them in the semifinal. The opportunity came literally in the last second. Luis Suarez was knocked down in a perfect spot for Uruguay, the mercurial Diego Forlan stepped up to take it. Had he converted the free-kick, not only was the game’s balance back into Uruguay’s favor but Forlan would have become the leading scorer of the tournament. Not to be. With the last kick of the game, Forlan’s bending shot bounced off the cross bar.
As a prelude to today’s big final, Germany and Uruguay delivered a spectacle worthy of admiration and are to be applauded for taking the match seriously. Both sides will return home with tremendous satisfaction and much to be proud about. Germany’s demolition of England and Argentina will be marked in the history books, as few anticipated this kind of success. Uruguay made a fantastic impression with a completely united team that generated some of the most exciting moments in South Africa and consistently played with great determination. Hopefully the tournament’s culmination will deliver the same type of performance.