Germany's pointless place on the 'podium'
When will FIFA end the torture of a meaningless 3rd/4th place game between two teams who are merely following protocol? Their respective hearts ripped out just days before, the World Cup organizers force the beaten semi finalists back onto the field.
If the Germans didn't take it seriously, why should any of the rest of us? A team composed largely of fringe players braved the atrocious elements in Port Elizabeth where only their competitive instincts saved the day.
Was that the line-up Joachim Loew would have fielded had Germany made the final? Of course not. He knows it and we know it. The German coach might argue it was a reward for the lesser lights who made the trip, or a chance to give younger players a taste of the World Cup experience.
The fact they defeated a full strength Uruguay team bodes well for the future. But this was about the present and bowing out with dignity. Clearly it was an occasion not important enough to include the likes of Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski, or captain Philippe Lahm.
It was Klose's final chance to equal, or surpass, Ronaldo's World Cup record of 15 goals. Apparently a back injury forced him to miss the game, while Lahm and Podolski had been laid low with flu symptoms, as had the coach himself.
Injury and illness are all part and parcel of the game. We will never know how much 'better' they may have felt with another 24 hours rest and the little matter of a World Cup to be won. The powers of recovery always seem to accelerate when there's something to play for.
I'm not trying to rain on FIFA's parade. I've enjoyed this World Cup, with the notable exception of the team representing the land of my fathers. But in football, third place is, frankly, no place at all. Germany and Uruguay both stumbled at the penultimate hurdle and that should be the end of it.
We all remember the world champions. We can usually recall who they beat in the Final. But I find myself thumbing through FIFA's archive to remind myself which team finished third. For the record, it was Germany again four years ago, Turkey before that and Croatia in 1998.
The list extends all the way back to the dawn of the World Cup in 1930. The chronicle of nearly men includes the USA, Sweden, Austria and Poland among others - a catalogue of nations which came close but left, and have continued to leave, without a cigar.
It is no surprise these games for third place are often among the most entertaining at any given World Cup. The pressure is off, the big prize is out of reach and players perform with a freedom which would be prohibited if the match really meant anything at all.
The tradition continued at Nelson Mandela Bay where the lead changed hands three times in a five goal bonanza. Perhaps every World Cup game should be played like this. At least it would pacify some North American soccer snipers who can't deal with a sport where one goal is often enough.
About the Author
Nigel Reed brings his extensive experience, passion and knowledge of the game of soccer to his role as play-by-play announcer for Major League Soccer ON CBC.
Reed has more than 20 years experience covering soccer, most notably a five-year stint from 1999 to 2004 where he was a host and producer for the English Premier League for BBC. He also covered English Premier League giants Liverpool and Everton for BBC Radio and provided analysis for both BBC TV and the BBC website.
Reed, who will also call matches for CBC's FIFA broadcast package, covered weightlifting, taekwondo, soccer and equestrian for CBC's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games.