Germany claim bronze as legends bow out
THE DAY REPLAYED: Twenty-nine days ago, Germany won by a two-goal margin to start their FIFA World Cup campaign with a flourish. Tonight they matched the feat with a 3-1 victory over Portugal to ensure they would finish in third place in a tournament in which they have been one of the most positive, attacking forces and to which their supporters have contributed hugely with their enthusiasm and hospitality.
It was an occasion of triumph for Bastian Schweinsteiger who scored with two piledrivers and who also induced Germany's other goal, as Petit deflected in his free-kick. And one to remember for two greats of the modern era: Portugal legend Luis Figo, who marked his departure from international football by laying on a late consolation, and Oliver Kahn, a fixture between the posts for the Nationalmannschaft for so long, who announced his own international retirement following the final whistle. As did Pauleta, captain for the day with Figo on the bench.
While Germany celebrated and forgot their tears of four days before when Italy denied them the chance to take part in the Final, at least Portugal had something to savour with that late effort by Nuno Gomes, courtesy of a peach of a cross from Figo. Until then it looked as though they would be going home disappointed at having failed to score in their last three fixtures. But fourth place represents no mean achievement by Luiz Felipe Scolari's men, their best since 1966 when they finished third.
The match for third place has a habit of producing goals an average of 3.93 in the 15 fixtures before today and it was no surprise when Stuttgart's Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion put on a show to follow the tradition.
After a scoreless first half it began to look as though this game could buck the trend but we should have known better after all, this German team are the leading scorers in the competition with 14 goals. And on this occasion, with Miroslav Klose and Gillette Best Young Player Lukas Podolski failing to dominate, victory came down to a midfielder who had been left out for the semi-final game with Italy and obviously felt he had something to prove.
Player of the Day & Goal of the Day
Bastian Schweinsteiger two stunning strikes
There could have been no other choice for the game's best player after Schweini' had put two cannon balls into Ricardo's net. The first had the benefit of a wicked swerve which took the ball through the goalkeeper's flailing arms.
The second goal came from a Schweinsteiger free-kick which Petit put into his own goal. Then, with 12 minutes remaining, the Bayern Munich man came infield from a wide position once more and unleashed a drive which Ricardo could not have been expected to keep out.
As promised Jurgen Klinsmann had brought back Kahn to give him the opportunity to appear in a FIFA World Cup in his own country. Robert Huth was hoping for a second appearance in the tournament but in the event an injury in the warm-up prevented him from taking part so Jens Nowotny got the call-up.
There was no Michael Ballack either because of injury which cost the game an element of fantasy although early on Portugal worked some neat openings with clever inter-passing. Simao's pass opened the way for Pauleta on 15 minutes but the Seleção's record goalscorer telegraphed his intentions.
Klose's eagerness to finish as the Golden Shoe winner saw him guilty of selfishness inside the first ten minutes when Podolski was better placed. His performance contained the odd spark of high promise but he was eventually substituted, unable to add to the five goals he scored in Germany's first five games. But unless Thierry Henry can produce a scoring spree in the Final then Klose's top scorer status is assured.
Moment of the Day
German joy how they have enjoyed staging this FIFA World Cup
The players didn't want to leave the pitch, the supporters were loath to vacate the stands. The party is over for the hosts and they haven't got their hands on the Trophy they craved but on and off the pitch the German contribution to this event has been immense.
What's left for them now is a 'thank you' tomorrow on Berlin's Fan Mile to their legions of fans who have supported them all the way and a decision from Klinsmann as to whether he is to carry on in the job. Before the tournament he faced plenty of criticism... now newspapers are running petitions demanding he stays. It's been a momentous month for many and not least the admirable German coach.