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WORLD CUP: Saturday's third-place preview

7/9/2010

URUGUAY VS. GERMANY

When: 11:30 a.m. PT. Where: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (Port Elizabeth)

TV: ABC (KABC/Channel 7), ESPN Deportes and Univision (KMEX/Channel 34); TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46), delayed, 7 p.m.; ESPN2, delayed, 12:30 a.m. (Sunday); ESPN Classic, delayed, 6 a.m. (Sunday)

Referee: Benito Armando Archundia (Mexico)

Players to watch: Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez have been a terrific tandem up top for Uruguay, and their abilities to get into good positions, or strike from distance, make them particularly dangerous. The return of captain Diego Lugano strengthens Los Charruas' backline. Germany needs another superb showing from Thomas Mueller, returning after missing the semifinal to suspension, and for Bastian Schweinsteiger to dictate play in midfield as he couldn't against Spain.

The scoop: Third-place games can be odd encounters; host nations and dark horses tend to fare best following the massive disappointment of falling in the semifinals. That favors Uruguay here. Don't expect the Germans to approach this one as they did the consolation match four years ago at home, when they overwhelmed Portugal to wrap up an unexpectedly spectacular run. There's lots at stake here, sort of: Forlan and Germany's Miroslav Klose and Thomas Mueller are still in the Golden Boot race, with four goals each, and Klose, who at 32 certainly won't play in another World Cup, needs just one more to equal Ronaldo's all-time World Cup record. But a back injury is likely to keep Klose on the sidelines, and midfielders Mesut Oezil and Sami Khedira also appear unlikely to play with undisclosed problems. And captain Philipp Lahm and wing/forward Lukas Podolski (along with head coach Joachim Loew) have the flu. Serdar Tasci and Dennis Aogo, who haven't played in the tournament, could get starting calls. Uruguay is in much better health: Forlan has recovered from his thigh injury, Lugano is back from a knee ailment, and Suarez (whose “heroic” hand ball sent his team to the final four) and outside back Jorge Fucile return from suspension. The extra day's rest also favors the Uruguayans, who would be a decided underdog if both teams were at full strength and the game really counted for something, which they aren't and it doesn't.

History: Uruguay and West Germany met in the 1970 third-place game. Uruguay had lost, 3-1, in the semifinals to Brazil, which would win the trophy with what is widely regarded as the greatest team to take the field. The Germans came in off a 4-3 overtime loss to Italy in what became known as the “Game of the Century,” in which they forced overtime, at 1-1, with Karl-Heinz Schnellinger's last minute goal, went ahead in extra time on Gerd Mueller's strike, gave up two goals, pulled even in the 110th minute on Mueller's 10th goal of the tournament, then surrendered the winner a minute later. Franz Beckenbauer played much of overtime with his arm in a sling after suffering a broken clavicle after Germany had exhausted its substitutions. The third-place match, which drew 104,403 to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, was won by the Germans, 1-0, on Wolfgang Overath's first-half goal.

Paul the Oracle Octopus' pick: Germany

Prediction: Uruguay 2, Germany 1

Potential lineups

Uruguay:
1-Fernando Muslera; 16-Maximiliano Pereira, 2-Diego Lugano, 3-Diego Godin, 4-Jorge Fucile; 17-Egidio Arevalo, 15-Diego Perez, 11-Alvaro Pereira; 9-Luis Suarez, 10-Diego Forlan, 7-Edinson Cavani.

Germany: 1-Manuel Neuer; 16-Philipp Lahm, 17-Per Mertesacker, 3-Arne Friedrich, 20-Jerome Boateng; 13-Thomas Mueller, 5-Serdar Tasci, 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger, 10-Lukas Podolski; 9-Stefan Kiessling, 19-Cacau.