Some highlights from previous third place play-off games
Germany beat Austria 3 – 2 in 1934. A grand total of 7,000 people packed themselves into the Giorgio Ascarelli stadium in Naples to see Ernest Lehner score in the first minute. Unfortunately for Lehner, this was the third place play-off and nobody cared then or since.
Four years later Brazil beat Sweden 4 – 2 after very kindly letting the Scandinavians took a 2 – 0 lead. The concept of “parking the bus” and protecting a lead clearly hadn’t been invented.
In 1958 France beat West Germany 6 – 3 in Gothenburg. Just Fontaine picked up another four goals, taking his tournament tally to 13. Helmut Rahn, World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 Player of the 1950s, found the net for the West Germans.
There then followed a succession of some of the dullest victories in the history of football; Brazil eventually broke the pattern with a 2 – 1 win over Italy at the magnificently named Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti stadium in Buenos Aires.
1990. England v Italy. We couldn’t win that one either.
In 1994 the Swedes gave Bulgaria a first half roasting, taking a four – nil lead before “parking the bus”. It had taken them 56 years to learn how to do this.
South Korea and Turkey took part in the 2002 third place play-off. To be honest, their presence made a refreshing change from the usual jaundiced Europeans and South Americans who just wanted to go home. That’s probably because South Korea were home already. Hakan Sukur matched Ernest Lehner’s 1934 feat by scoring in the first minute. Unfortunately for Sukur, this was the third place play-off and nobody cared then or since.
What about tonight’s match?
Suarez will almost certainly return for Uruguay. Personally I would have banned him for two games after his blatant cheating in the quarter final against Ghana. Diego Forlan, easily Uruguay’s best player throughout the tournament, may not recover from injury in time.
Injuries, tiredness and a virus may all have an impact on Joachim Low’s selection. The German coach could find himself forced to use alternative squad players if some of the bigger names are ruled out. We may have seen the last of Miroslav Klose if he can’t play tonight. What a superb striker he was.
The good news for the Germans is they have never lost a World Cup match against Uruguay, scoring 23 goals in 8 matches. The teams met at the same stage in 1970, a solitary goal from Overath settling matters in West Germany’s favour.
So regardless of who makes the team, the omens are good for Germany. Oh and that bloody octopus “says” they will win.