PORT ELIZABETH (South Africa): Sami Khedira’s 82nd-minute header earned Germany a 3-2 victory in a rousing and rain-soaked World Cup third-place play-off match with Uruguay on Saturday.
The Stuttgart midfielder rose to nod the ball beyond Fernando Muslera after Uruguay failed to clear a late corner, while Diego Forlan was inches away from a dramatic equaliser with an injury-time free-kick that struck the crossbar.
Forlan rounded off an impressive individual showing at the tournament with a brilliantly-taken volley to give Uruguay a 2-1 lead early in the second period, only for Marcell Jansen to restore parity moments later.
Thomas Mueller had put Germany in front in the 19th minute, but Edinson Cavani drew Uruguay level in the 28th minute.
“Of course we had all hoped for something better, but this match for third place was also a final that we absolutely wanted to win,” said Khedira.
“At this World Cup we were a very young team and we’ve put down a marker. But we obviously want to win more in the future.”
Mueller and Forlan’s goals took them level with Spain’s David Villa and Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder in the race for the Golden Boot with five strikes apiece.
The young German will finish as the tournament’s official top scorer if Villa and Sneijder both fail to score in Sunday’s final, though, because assists are taken into account in case of a tie and he has supplied three to his rivals’ one each.
“Finishing among the top four teams is spectacular,” said Forlan.
“At the beginning we never thought we’d taste a moment like this. We wanted to finish third, but we’ll remember the positives.”
Miroslav Klose’s hopes of matching Ronaldo’s record of 15 World Cup finals goals were dashed after a back injury saw him relegated to the German bench by coach Joachim Loew alongside skipper Philipp Lahm and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Uruguay looked to take advantage of lethargy in the German ranks in the second period, with Germany goalkeeper Hans-Joerg Butt regularly called into action.
He pulled off a fine double save to repel Cavani and then Luis Suarez, but was then beaten by an acrobatic volley from Forlan that flew inside the right-hand post.
Jansen drew Germany level in the 56th minute when he capitalised on a rash charge from Muslera to nod in Jerome Boateng’s right-wing cross.
The livewire Suarez produced a flying save from Butt with an ambitious effort and the veteran also had to dash from his line to deny Forlan.
German substitute Stefan Kiessling smashed a shot straight at Muslera following a bewitching stepover on the edge of the box, before Khedira set the seal on a memorable tournament for Joachim Loew’s young team.
Kiessling could have made it 4-2 but he swept over from 12 yards after a flowing move.
Germany edged Uruguay 1-0 when the sides met in the third-place match at the 1970 World Cup and they came close to taking an early lead here when Arne Friedrich met Mesut Ozil’s deep corner with a header that bounced back off the crossbar.
Uruguay held out for just nine more minutes, with Mueller slotting in from close range after 19 minutes after Bastian Schweinsteiger’s swerving drive was pushed out by Muslera.
Lightning counter-attacks have been Germany’s trademark at this tournament but they were dealt a taste of their own medicine in the 28th minute when Diego Perez quickly fed Suarez, whose pass was stabbed home by Cavani.