Third place is hardly the prize Joachim Loew and his team were hoping to take home, but Saturday's game could be a useful test of the team's depth moving forward. But the team will have to make do without its top stars.
Defensive midfield star Schweinsteiger will be on the pitch for the Uruguay game
Germany and Uruguay prepared to battle for third place in the World Cup's penultimate match on Saturday, in a game neither team really wanted to play.
The third place playoff has always been somewhat of an anticlimax, with the world’s attention focused on Sunday's final match-up between Spain and the Netherlands. An estimated 500 million viewers around the world are expected to watch the final, making it one of the most-watched events in history.
Both Germany and Uruguay, though, were determined to give their all and remind the world why they got as far as they did.
"Nobody needs to hang their heads low and we want to have a good final match," German coach Joachim Loew said before the game.
Until Saturday, it remained unclear whether some of Germany's top players would take part in the last game.
Germany captain Philipp Lahm, wing striker Lukas Podolski and Loew spent Friday morning not on the practice field, but in bed. Each had come down with the flu.
Hours before kickoff, news broke that the two players would sit out the final match. According to German mass-circulation tabloid daily Bild, defensive midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger will step in for Lahm as captain, with Jerome Boateng filling in for Lahm on right defense. Replacing Podolski on the left will be Marcell Jansen.
It's understandable that their immune systems gave out at this juncture, considering what a draining last couple of weeks they all had - and what a letdown it must have been to make it all the way to the World Cup semifinal only to lose.
According to team manager Oliver Bierhoff, the fact that Germany will field a changed side does not diminish the team's will to win.
"We're putting a lot of emphasis on the fact that we need to take the game seriously," he said.
"We need to keep stretching ourselves," added Thomas Mueller, who can add to his four-goal tournament tally in the game. "We can't go into the game with a sloppy attitude."
Klose will miss out on the chance to break the goalscoring record held by Ronaldo
Klose sitting out
Suffering from back trouble in recent days, striker Miroslav Klose will also sit out Germany's final game and will be replaced by Cacau. With 14 career goals in the World Cup finals, the game was his last chance to break the goalscoring record held by Brazil's Ronaldo.
Before the tournament, Klose had said his goal was to score five goals, a total that would equal his hauls at his two previous World Cups and put him level on the all-time list.
Attempts at setting records and stay-focused rhetoric aside, Germany may not be as motivated to get a result on Saturday as its opponents. The Germans have won three World Cup titles, and more recently came third at the 2006 Cup and second at the 2008 European Championship. Uruguay, conversely, have been in the football wilderness. They haven't been this far since 1970 - when, incidentally, they lost 1-0 in the third-place game - to Germany.
But from a long-term perspective, the game could prove to be critical to this young Germany side. Joachim Loew has not yet made it clear whether he will continue as German coach - but it appears very likely.
Loew's system has produced good results in South Africa, but the coach will need to explore his squad's depth moving forward.
Loew and his assistants are not yet ready to commit to coming back - but signs point to yes
First, there are the aging players who are all but certain not to be available in Brazil in 2014. At 31 and 32 respectively, Arne Friedrich and Miroslav Klose are playing in their last World Cup.
Loew may want to see more of Cacau (29), Mario Gomez (24) and Stefan Kiessling (26) in the lone striker role he has occupied. And Arne Friedrich, as well as he's played in this tournament, is not a long-term solution at center back. Serdar Tasci or Holger Badstuber could take over at some point.
Second, Loew may want to see if he can address the shortcomings that kept his team from getting past Spain. Germany were pressed relentlessly by the Spanish defense, but in any case gave the ball away much too easily.
Loew's comments after that match showed he is more than a little jealous of his opponents' passing and ability to protect the ball, and may want to move toward a set of Spain-inspired tactics that put pure ball skills at the forefront.
To do that, he'll need to find a place in his side for more highly skilled players like Toni Kroos, Marko Marin and Dennis Aogo. According to Bild, Aogo is expected to start in Saturday's game, his World Cup debut, and both Kroos and Marin are candidates to see some playing time. In goal for Germany will be Joerg Butt.
On the opposing side, Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez revealed on Friday that striker Diego Forlan had recovered from a thigh injury he suffered in the semifinal match against the Netherlands, and would assume a starting rule in Saturday’s game.
He’ll be joined by strike partner Luis Suarez, who missed the semifinal with a suspension after being sent off for a controversial handball in Uruguay’s quarterfinal win against Ghana a week ago. Also returning are center back and captain Diego Lugano, back from injury, and left back Jorge Fucile, available after a suspension.
Author: Matt Hermann/mk (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer