NEWS OF THE WORLD, Sunday, July 11, 2010

GERMANY OFFER GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE

URUGUAY 2 GERMANY 3

THIS was not about third place, this was not about a bronze medal, this was about the future.

About a German side who could become one of the game's dominant forces. A glimpse of the future.

It might have knockabout stuff but it was another reminder of the healthy shape of German football - a sad contrast to the English scenario.

Never mind the disaster in Bloemfontein, what should be more worrying is that players such as Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller - who scored the first goal in this enjoyable romp - and Sami Khedira, who headed the clincher, will form the spine of a team that is only scratching the surface of its potential.

Bright, savvy, unselfish, respectful players who provide a grim contrast to the talent in England.

Germany will take no particular pride in being ranked third at this World Cup - but they will take huge encouragement from the performances of this knot of young players.

Again, they were the inspiration for victory.

After Edison Cavani had cancelled out Muller's opener and Diego Forlan's volley had been negated by Marcell Jansen, it was 23-year-old Khedira who clinched that bronze medal.

For their overall contribution to this tournament, they deserved some recognition.

And this entertaining contest justified the inclusion of this game in the schedule.

They call this the match that no-one wants. But as a curtain-raiser to the World Cup Final, it has a value.

And another chance to see this vibrant German side is not to be sniffed at.

They have been a credit to this tournament - no traces of arrogance in crushing victory, plenty of grace in demoralising defeat.

Uruguay, through the manner of their triumph over Ghana, have not quite captured the imagination in the same way.

But for such a small country, their achievement at this tournament should not be underestimated.

And in Forlan, they boast a player with serious claims to being one of the outstanding performers of the World Cup.

Rumours out here suggest Sir Alex Ferguson has even been considering an attempt to bring Forlan back to Manchester.

Unlikely. But one thing is for sure Forlan is the fulcrum of this Uruguayan side. Their talisman.

And he was always going to be one of their main hopes against a German team that can look forward to the next handful of major tournaments with serious optimism.

At 31, Arne Friedrich might not be a key figure in that future. But he has been one of the most accomplished defenders at South Africa 2010.

And he has developed a knack of finding space in opposition territory, nodding against the crossbar before the ubiquitous Sepp Blatter had settled into his VVIP seat.

It was a signal of German intent.

This was no exhibition game. Ask Diego Perez, whose ankle felt every stud belonging to Dennis Aogo. The German was fortunate to remain on the field.

But that exemplified Germany's commitment to the contest.

This is a long-term project with players such as Ozil and Khedira at the heart of the scheme.

And Muller will be the spearhead.

There has not been a more impressive young player at this tournament. Eloquent off the pitch, eloquent on it.

His approach to the game is calm, measured and intelligent. And his intelligence gave him his fifth goal of the World Cup.

As soon as Sebastian Schweinsteiger began to measure up a crack from long distance, Muller was on the move.

So when Fernando Muslera - one of goalkeeping's lesser lights at this World Cup - spat out Schweinsteiger's effort, Muller was in splendid isolation and calmly stroked in the opening goal.

Any thoughts, though, that Uruguay might throw in the towel were totally misguided. This is a fiercely proud, fiercely determined squad.

Which is why Perez hounded Schweinsteiger into a midfield mistake, allowing Luis Suarez to thread a chance for Edison Cavani, who finished with no little aplomb.

Ignoring the controversy surrounding his handball against Ghana, Suarez has also established himself as a genuine star of world football.

That is why it was a surprise when he hooked a sitter wide in the closing stages of the first half.

And equally surprising was when he allowed reserve keeper Hans-Jorg Butt to recover and block just after the restart.

Butt could do little about the Uruguayan second - founded on the work-rate of Egidio Arevalo and completed by the acrobatic volley of Forlan.

Uruguay were increasingly impressive but in Muslera, they have a goalkeeping liability.

(Perhaps Suarez should have taken the gloves.)

And sure enough, one ill-judged venture from his line - trying to intercept a Jerome Boateng cross - proved costly, Jansen heading into the vacated net.

The goal was typical of the game - entertaining but slapdash, everything you would expect a third place play-off to be.

And both Suarez - relentlessly jeered by the crowd - and Forlan wasted good chances to restore Uruguayan supremacy.

They were made to regret it. A scramble from a corner - with Muslera predictably uncertain - ended with the ball looping up invitingly for Khedira (who might not have been here had it not been for the injury to Michael Ballack) and he steered his header home.

Maybe not for their performance on the night but for their attitude and displays during this whole tournament, it was a just reward.

You couldn't help but feel for Forlan who struck the crossbar with the last kick of the game and in what might well be his last World Cup.

For Ozil, Muller and Khedira and company, this is just the start.

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