Germany 3-1 Portugal
At half-time last night, I rather thought that I had, as promised, jinxed proceedings. But then the Germans came out and played. As I said yesterday, I really enjoy the World Cup third place play-off match, and in the end we had a match to be proud of, as Germany overcame Portugal comfortably. Eventually.
The first half was surprisingly pedestrian. Portugal continued to suffer from not being able to do anything once they got the ball near the opposition penalty area, whilst the Germans appeared strangely nervous. It was, frankly, a dull first-half. I couldn’t help but think this was the World Cup letting us down again… but then Jurgen Klinsmann had a word at half-time, and Germany came out for the second half looking, as they had done in several previous matches, like one of the best attacking teams in the world.
I was delighted to see Bastian Schweinsteiger turn, briefly, into the best striker of a ball from twenty yards out. This is partly because is name translates as “Pig-riser”, but also because he has worked so damn hard during this World Cup. His efforts finally reaped some sort of reward. It was harsh, though, on the excellent Ricardo, who was beaten three times in the second half. Twice there was nothing he could really do about, and once he was fooled by a fiercely swerving ball. Ricardo has beeen one of my stars of the tournament. Clearly an excellent goalkeeper, but also eccentric enough to make him interesting to watch as well.
There was also something of a soap opera being played out on the touchline. Having apparently fallen out spectacularly with Felipe Scolari, would Luis Figo ever appear again in a Portugal shirt? Well, the answer was yes, and Figo, although he only had a quarter of an hour, still pulled something out of the bag with a frankly delicious cross just before full-time for Nuno Gomes. He couldn’t miss.
So, it’s farewell to the tournament’s most entertaining team. The Germans have between terrific to watch, and this win was the least that they deserved. Will the DFB see sense and extend Klinsmann’s contract? A club somewhere could strike it very lucky if they can’t agree a deal. As for Portugal, well, I can’t help but think that they were fortunate to get this far, and quite where they go from here is anybody’s guess. Without Figo’s influence and Scolari’s team-building skills, they may struggle, but they have several great players. Like Germany, they have a great coach and need to keep hold of him.