Germany conquered third place at the World Cup on Saturday with a 3-2 win over Uruguay, a surprisingly exciting first course to the main dish to be served up on Sunday, the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.
Diego Forlan hit the bar with the last kick in a sodden Port Elizabeth as Uruguay fought to level the scores after the two teams shook off the disappointment of having to battle for third place rather than the title of world champion.
Sami Khedira scored a late goal to put Germany 3-2 up and give the team third place for the second straight World Cup.
Uruguay had come from behind to lead 2-1 when Diego Forlan volleyed in a 51st-minute cross for his fifth goal of the tournament. Germany defender Marcell Jansen leveled five minutes later with a header. Thomas Mueller had given Germany a 1-0 lead with his fifth goal at the World Cup, but Edinson Cavani equalized for Uruguay in the 28th.
At Soccer City on Sunday evening, two of the World Cup’s most exciting teams will have all the talent necessary to provide one of the most thrilling World Cup finals in the tournament’s 80-year history.
Spain’s organization and control won it the European Championship two years ago and could make it only the third side to add the World Cup to that title.
The Netherlands has scored five more goals than Spain but places equal importance on the sort of possession play that suffocates opponents and requires patient scheming rather than pace and excitement.
“Goal scoring is less important,” Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. “We have good organization and a few creative players that can make the difference.
“But Spain has that, too.”
That could make for an evenly matched game decided by a moment of individual brilliance by the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder or Spain’s David Villa, who share the lead in the tournament scoring charts with five goals each.
Vicente del Bosque doesn’t expect the Netherlands to shy away from its attack-minded philosophy just because it’s coming up against Spain in the World Cup final.
The Spain coach expects the Netherlands to stick to the script and not revert to a more defensive-minded approach as Champions League winner Inter Milan did against Barcelona this season. The core of Spain’s lineup play for the Spanish champion.
“I don’t think the Netherlands will change its way of playing just because it is up against Spain,” Del Bosque said Saturday. “I don’t believe in any way there will be a change in their script, in what they are thinking of doing. I don’t think so.
“We both have our scripts written and we shouldn’t veer from them.”
Netherlands captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst wants to live the boyhood dream of tens of millions of kids: lifting the World Cup.
“As a kid, you follow the World Cups,” Van Bronckhorst said “And when the cup is lifted, it is a very special moment.”
World Cup match officials have been a big success despite making mistakes in some games, FIFA’s head of refereeing said. Jose-Marcia Garcia-Aranda said analysis of the first 62 matches showed that referees got more than 96 percent of their decisions right.
“It is a big success. We have to say it is not an opinion (but) facts,” the Spanish official said.
FIFA accepted that errors that were made, though in “only a few” matches.
“We are not hiding our mistakes or the mistakes of the referees on the field of play,” Garcia-Aranda said in a robust defense of FIFA’s refereeing program.
World Cup final referee Howard Webb is getting a much better ending to his second big tournament than his first.
On Sunday, the shaven-headed former policeman will stride out in front of the Netherlands and Spain teams after being given his profession’s most prestigious assignment.
Two years ago, the English official was sent home early from the European Championships for a missed offside call in a group-stage match which is remembered for a stoppage-time penalty that earned him death threats from Polish fans.
Dutch football great Johan Cruyff said that of the two teams in the World Cup final he “sees the most of me” in Spain rather than the Netherlands.
Del Bosque’s team “radiates an aura of ‘we want the ball and we want to dictate,”’ Cruyff said in an interview with Dutch daily De Telegraaf.
The former midfield star and architect of Dutch “total football” of the 1970s made the comments as his country whipped itself into a football frenzy ahead of Sunday’s final in Johannesburg.
An orange tram was riding around Amsterdam and the Defense Ministry announced that two F-16 fighter jets, including one painted orange, will escort the team’s plane home once it reaches Dutch air space on Monday.
UEFA president Michel Platini was released from a Johannesburg hospital and will attend Sunday’s World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.
The former France great stayed in the hospital overnight after collapsing in a Johannesburg restaurant on Friday evening.
FIFA says that “all the medical tests conducted were normal.”
In Cape Town, a magistrate freed a British tabloid journalist who had been accused of trying to undermine World Cup security after he pleaded guilty Saturday to violating the country’s immigration act and was fined.
The prosecutor dropped two charges after Simon Wright of the Sunday Mirror paid a 750 rand ($100) fine. AP