PORT ELIZABETH: Joachim Loew hailed Germany’s spirit after they came from behind to defeat Uruguay 3-2 in a thrilling game on Saturday and secure third place at the World Cup.
"In the second half, when we were forced to dig deep, we saw the mental strength the team had to resist and then snatch victory," said the Germany coach.
"I’m pleased with that, the team deserves it. Altogether, what we’ve achieved, we never would have expected it eight or nine months ago."
Germany claimed victory thanks to Sami Khedira’s 82nd-minute header, after strikes from Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan had seen Uruguay hit back from a goal down following Thomas Mueller’s opener.
The three-time champions were hit by a series of injuries to key players, including captain Michael Ballack, on the eve of the World Cup but responded with some thrilling performances despite the inexperience in their ranks.
Loew’s young players defeated England 4-1 in the last 16 and thrashed Argentina 4-0 in the quarter-finals before finally meeting their match in a 1-0 semi-final defeat by Spain.
Central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger was one of the stars of the tournament and he believes the country has a rich footballing future to look forward to.
"I’m very proud to play in this team," said the Bayern Munich player. "We have to look to the future, we can still achieve lots of things."
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez lauded his side’s performance at the World Cup but said they had been undone by individual errors against Germany.
The meeting in Port Elizabeth was a re-match of the 1970 third-place match, which Germany won 1-0, after Tabarez had guided his team to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 40 years.
"The match was contested by two teams who really wanted to finish in third place, by two teams who gave everything," said Tabarez.
"We made one mistake too many, but we showed that we were capable. We showed that we could compete with any team in the world."
Uruguay have been the surprise package of the World Cup, qualifying from a difficult group that also included France, Mexico and hosts South Africa before defeating South Korea and Ghana to reach the last four.
They were beaten 3-2 by the Netherlands in the semi-finals but Tabarez said his squad would take great heart from their African endeavors.
"Uruguay have been one of the surprises of the tournament and we still don’t realize what’s happened back home," he said.
"I received an email on Friday from a lady I didn’t know who said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for having changed the image of our country’.
"I’m surprised, it’s the beauty of sport and the serious work we’ve accomplished."