“Let’s make this a celebration,” intones ITV commentator Peter Drury, before kick-off, and millions of people, all at once, think, “yeah, lose your voice.” Uruguay’s national anthem is what Billy Connolly had in mind all those years ago when he suggested replacing ‘God Save the Queen’ with the theme tune to ‘The Archers.’ It’s one of the things from this World Cup that I’ll remember, and I’ll miss it now it’s gone, for four years at least. La Celeste are wearing blue shorts for no obvious reason – Germany are in their change kit equally inexplicably, have Wednesday’s shirts not come back from the laundry? – and they look more like Coventry City with each misplaced pass.
Germany full-back Dennis Aogo’s World Cup is nearly over before it’s begun as an early studs-up challenge nearly snaps Diego Perez’s leg in two. But as Adrian Chiles rightly points out, Perez is either made of girders or rubber. I still wish he’d come up against Javier Mascherano in this tournament, then we’d have seen who was the proper midfield enforcer and who was the West Ham reject. It’s all Germany for a bit, though. “The first team to bring expansive football to World Cup 2010,” claims Drury, clean forgetting Argentina the day before Germany kicked-off. While Drury’s at the mic, it seems like it’s been a long World Cup.
He’s certainly no cricket fan, suggesting that Germany have dealt in boundaries, having scored four times in three matches, but adding that “they were bowled out by Carlos Puyol’s beamer” – a head-high delivery that might knock someone out but wouldn’t bowl them out. Bastian Schweinsteiger keeps the cricketing analogies alive with a late inswinger from 37 yards which deceives Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera, who’s about to start his nightmares. He only parries it into the path of the very alert Thomas Mueller, who side-foots it home with what could be a golden boot, as he joins an increasing number of strikers on five goals. Drury points out the booing of Luis Suarez which periodically drowns out the vuvuzelas. He clearly approves, for now, noting darkly that Suarez “wasn’t all that unwilling to go down” for a penalty against South Africa.
Sadly for Drury, Uruguay are soon level thanks to the thousandth crunching tackle from Perez and a through ball by Suarez which cuts everyone off mid-boo, setting up a Uruguayan striker who Drury identifies as ‘Cavaniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” (his birth certificate must look like a scarf). The ball rolls into the corner of the net in front of a well-placed ‘Chesterfield’ flag of St.George. Co-commentator Craig Burley is not as happy with the booing of Suarez and makes this very clear early in the second half (”was he supposed to let the ball go in the net?”). Someone’s had a word with Drury, too, (or Burley bopped him on the nose during half-time…we can dream) as he agrees immediately. Uruguay are in their stride now and, despite their stuttering start, probably just about deserve to go 2-1 up, Diego Forlan staking a claim for his stud of the golden boot with a volley which flies off the rain-sodden turf past a helpless Hans Joerg Butt. Butt is only playing because it’s ‘only’ the third place play off but is by a mile the better of the two keepers in this match, as Muslera soon proves beyond doubt, waving at a Jerome Boateng cross as it flies by him on the way to Marcell Jansen’s ear and, in turn, the back of the net. Jansen apologises. Muslera should apologise. “He should take a couple of paracetamol and forget about the last few days,” suggests Burley. As product placements go, it’s original.
Butt twice shows Muslera how it should be done as the game becomes “stretched” (i.e. exciting). Both sides want to win it (“festival football, freedom football,” says Drury, whose World Cup will soon be over) and they make you wish all international football could be this way. There has to be a winner, and Drury is right, fair play to him, to suggest that Germany deserve third place over the whole tournament. The winning goal is a spawny, scrabbly sort of effort, out of keeping with the match. But Sami Khedira is a worthy scorer, as one of the many young German stars to emerge in South Africa. Who the hell is Michael Ballack, anyway?
There’s a bit left, though. German substitute Stefan Kiessling shows the world why he is substitute, firing as far over the bar as he is from goal. “YOUruguay, do YOU have it in YOU?” asks YOU-know-who, one of those questions you know he’s rehearsed for ages but doesn’t come out that way. And the answer is nearly “yes.” All commentators have been puzzled as to why Forlan takes the Uruguay corners, clean forgetting his ability from a dead ball. With the last kick of the game, he provides yet another reminder, pinging one off the crossbar, with the final whistle going before the ball lands. “It would have earned him the Golden Boot” claims Drury, an appropriate way to end his tournament.
But Adrian Chiles says the same thing in the studio moments later, and he usually doesn’t talk crap, so maybe there’s been training round injuries to David Villa and Wesley Sneijder that ITV are keeping under wraps. Golden Boot manufacturers may have been hoping so, as there’s four players on five goals, although Gareth Southgate informs us that Thomas Mueller is ahead at the moment on number of assists. He rightly points out that assists are not the way to decide the top scorer, putting himself clear of the field as ITV’s best studio pundit. Yes, even better than Kevin Keegan. We’re briefly returned to the stadium for the post-match on-field gathering, which is an altogether more civilised affair than Uruguay’s dust-up with Holland last Tuesday. The last shot is of Per Mertersacker, about to put on Uruguay substitute Sebastian Abreu’s shirt on… back-to-front. Sadly, the image fades before we can see Mertersacker kill off the German efficiency stereotype once and for all.
Thanks once again to Historical Football Kits for the use of the graphics.