Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup 2010 Game 63: Germany 3, Uruguay 2

The third place games is one of those eccentricities of the World Cup that makes it what it is. There used to be a third place game in the NCAA tournament but it was discontinued twenty, thirty years ago under the reasonable notion that fans rarely cared and that forcing teams that were coming off staggering disappointments to play a somewhat meaningless game was just mean.

Picking a third place game is like betting on a professional sports preseason game or an NBA or NFL All-Star game. A lot depends on predicting who will care, who will show up, which coach wants to save his job or get momentum for the next meaningful part of a schedule.

I assumed, on one hand, that the game would be a little looser on defense and that would favor Germany. It is just human nature to have a little less concentration on defense, to not be able to trick your mind into thinking its like the "real thing" and bear down. Since Uruguay's game is a little more defensively minded, I figured it would be harder to change on a dime.

On the other hand, Uruguay would have a couple players coming off suspensions who would be eager to play, and that might make the effort a bit more on their part. (Germany, for instance, didn't even play Miroslav Klose, who had an opportunity to set a career mark in World Cup goals).

The game itself was pretty typical of a third place game, which is to say atypical of a World Cup game. There were lead changes (Germany scored first, Uruguay took a 2-1 lead out of the half, and Germany scored the last two for the win). The field was rained on and pretty sloppy, so that didn't make for pretty soccer. But it was worth watching for Diego Forlan's goal that could (depending on what David Villa does) earn him a part of the Golden Boot and should earn him a permanent YouTube home in some thread of pretties World Cup goals. Typically called a scissors kick, Forlan's shot was a perfectly timed strike in which he managed to get his leg over a crossing ball by throwing his legs in the air. That a player can just not whiff on such a play is extraordinary, that he can hit the goal (that is, aim) is astounding.

Plus, that play had one of my favorite replays of the World Cup. Next time you see the highlight, keep your eye on the German goaltender. He never even moves until the ball is in the net.

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