PORT ELIZABETH: Germany took third place at the World Cup for the second tournament in a row Saturday with an exciting 3-2 victory over Uruguay.
Uruguay, driven by striker Diego Forlan, almost forced extra time. Forlan’s free kick crashed against the crossbar in injury time, the last kick of the match.
The match was heading for extra time at 2-2 when Sami Khedira scored a late header. The goal ended Uruguay’s hopes of beating Germany for the first time in 82 years, while the Germans finished in the top three for the 11th time.
"We had hoped for more, and we did everything for it," Khedira said. "This was some kind of final and we did everything for it. We have a young team and … can reach higher."
Forlan said after the game that Uruguay had surpassed expectations. "Obviously it’s spectacular to be among the top four," he said. "If anyone had asked us at the beginning, we would’ve liked it. It’s positive."
Germany coach Joachim Loew, his voice hoarse from flu, said that his team was going home "with a very good feeling."
"We achieved more than we perhaps expected," Loew said.
"Immediately after this match there is no reason to be disappointed. After the match against Spain everyone was disappointed. But champions rise again."
"We have every reason to be fully satisfied with our tournament. There is no room for disappointment."
Uruguay had come from behind to lead 2-1 when Forlan volleyed in Egidio Arevalo’s 51st-minute cross for his fifth goal of the tournament. Germany defender Marcell Jansen leveled five minutes later with a header after goalkeeper Fernando Muslera misjudged a cross.
"I think the match was a real match. They staged a great show," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said.
Loew also thought both teams played with passion.
"It was obvious tonight both teams wanted to win and not go home empty handed. I have to congratulate the teams on the effort they made and particularly my team when they were trailing," Loew said.
Man-of-the match Thomas Mueller, coming back from suspension in the semifinal, gave Germany the lead in the 18th minute, his fifth goal at the World Cup, sweeping the ball home after Bastian Schweinsteiger’s swerving shot had been blocked but not collected by Muslera, who was at fault in Germany’s first two goals.
Edinson Cavani equalized for Uruguay in the 28th when he slid a shot past goalkeeper Hans-Joerg Butt.
Uruguay has beaten Germany only once in 10 matches, in 1928. Germany beat Uruguay in the third-place match in 1970 — the last time Uruguay reached the semifinals.
"I don’t think it’s too vain to think that if we improve a little we can aspire to certain prominence in future international tournaments," Tabarez said.
Mueller and Forlan are now even at five goals with David Villa of Spain and Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands, both of whom can increase their total in Sunday’s final.
This match was very important for us. We made some mistakes and were about to lose it but we got it back. The team has proved we can play at the top level," Mueller said.
Germany’s young team was missing five regulars through injury and illness, including striker Miroslav Klose. Klose, with a painful back, missed a chance to match or beat the World Cup scoring record of 15 goals, held by Brazil striker Ronaldo.
"Luckily, we won, because the disappointment over the semifinal was still there," Schweinsteiger said. "We were behind and we rallied, that shows the character if this team. I am very proud of this team although I have tears in one eye because we did not reach the final."
Also missing for Germany were defender and captain Philipp Lahm and forward Lukas Podolski, also down with the flu.
In an action-packed match, Butt made two good saves from Luis Suarez and Forlan after his team’s second goal. The 36-year-old veteran, who was third-choice goalkeeper in 2002, earned his World Cup debut instead of regular Manuel Neuer.
In its last three World Cup tournaments, Germany was runner-up in 2002 and third in 2006 at home.
Both coaches’ contracts ended with the match. While Loew would not discuss his future, Tabarez said he might continue.
"I could go on … That is a possibility but this is not the right time to talk about that," he said.
Loew is expected to have talks with the German federation after the team’s return home.