Stuttgart though, will be preparing for a showdown of it’s own, as Germany and Portugal prepare to slug it out for a 3rd place finish in what promises to be a physical and controversial encounter.
The 3rd place tie is unfair on the losing semi-finalists. A good team that loses in the semifinal must suffer the ignomity of having to play one more time, with the fact that they will not be contesting the final rubbed in by the relative lack of importance of the match. The loser of this tie (effectively, the team that comes in fourth) suffers even more – of the two losers, they were worse.
One wonders what Klinsmann and Scolari would be going through right now – both are proud, passionate coaches who have taken their teams far beyond what was expected. They have relied on discipline and tactics rather than flair, and it has paid off in spades for both of them.
Last time around South Korea and Turkey – two other teams that got to the semi-finals despite being underdogs – would have been happy just to have gotten that far. This time, while Germany and Portugal will be just as satisfied, both teams will regret the manner of their defeat. Germany went out to two late goals in the last two minutes of extra time, and Portugal lost to a Zidane penalty in a match that saw them retain 57 percent possession.
Tempers will flare in this match – you can count on it. Some big stars will also sit it out, Figo and Klose (and perhaps Ballack as well) being the frontrunners to miss it. Lehmann, in his first and only reply to Oliver Kahn’s comments (about being treated unfairly), has offered to sit out of the match so that Kahn could get a World Cup game.
Lehmann may have made the offer in good faith (I suspect he has), but the obvious insult in it will not go unnoticed. Lehmann may have his faults, but this was one hell of a classy reply.
Winner? Surely Germany. They absolutely have to win, and all the hard work they’ve done this summer will come apart if they lose again.
[tags]World Cup, Germany, Portugal[/tags]