Germany took bronze for the fourth time at the FIFA World Cup™ after beating Uruguay 3-2 in an entertaining play-off for third place. Sami Khedira got the winning goal with eight minutes remaining as Joachim Low's side repeated their success in this same match four years ago.
There was no shortage of goals as the rain came teeming down in Port Elizabeth with both sides eager to conclude impressive campaigns on a winning note. Thomas Muller and Edinson Cavani traded first half efforts before Diego Forlan and Marcell Jansen did likewise within ten minutes of the restart. Yet it was Germany who came out on top and, in the process, South Africa 2010's leading scorers reached the 16-goal mark, surpassing their total at Italy 1990, albeit falling one short of their tally in 1970, when they also pipped Uruguay to the bronze medal.
For two of the scorers, Muller and Forlan, their strikes took them to five for the tournament, level with David Villa and Wesley Sneijder at the top of the adidas Golden Boot standings. Forlan will rue the injury-time free-kick against the crossbar that denied him a sixth goal, while Miroslav Klose's absence with a back injury left him rooted on five too.
Both teams featured changed lineups after their semi-final losses. Germany coach Joachim Low went for a wholly new forward line from that which began against Spain with starting roles for the trio of Muller, Cacau and Jansen. Further back Dennis Aogo came in for Philipp Lahm and goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt for Manuel Neuer. As for Uruguay, they welcomed back captain Diego Lugano from injury together with Jorge Fucile and Luis Suarez, both suspended for last Tuesday's defeat by the Netherlands.
Muller made his mark early with his fifth goal in South Africa. The 20-year-old had already had one effort ruled out for offside when he fired Low’s side ahead in the 19th minute. Bastian Schweinsteiger sent in a shot from 30 yards that goalkeeper Diego Muslera, seemingly deceived by the swerve and dip, parried straight to Muller who had an easy task to score. A German breakthrough was hardly a surprise given by that stage they had also seen Arne Friedrich head a Mesut Ozil corner against the crossbar yet Oscar Tabarez's side soon responded.
Uruguay threatened in the 25th minute when Per Mertesacker got a block on Forlan's far-post header. Four minutes later, though, they had their equaliser from a swift counter. Diego Perez dispossessed Schweinsteiger just inside the Celeste half with a powerful challenge and fed Suarez who played in Cavani down the inside left-channel. The Palermo striker took one touch before prodding a low finish into the bottom corner. Suarez should then have put Uruguay ahead three minutes before the break when Forlan picked out his diagonal run but bearing down on Butt's goal from the right, he arrowed his shot wide of the far post.
Futher changes went begging moments after the restart when Butt saved at Cavani's feet and then got a hand to Suarez’s shot on the follow-up. Butt was left helpless when Forlan made it 2-1 after 51 minutes, however. The Atletico Madrid striker connected acrobatically with Egidio Arevalo's cross on the edge of the box, sending the ball into the rain-sodden turf and back up past Butt. Yet the lead lasted only five minutes before Muslera missed Jerome Boateng's deep cross and Jansen headed home.
The game was now wide open as both teams chased a third goal. Butt kept out a flying strike from Suarez and came out to save at the feet of Forlan. At the other end Muslera beat away a shot from Germany substitute Stefan Kiessling, who missed two other inviting chances. The winning goal, when it came, followed an Ozil corner. The ball bounced off Friedrich and then Lugano before rising fortuitously to Khedira who headed home.