If the history of the World Cup’s third place match didn’t motive you to tune in at 2:30 p.m. Eastern (ABC), perhaps we should focus on the present, where a number of story lines threaten to make Saturday’s match one of the most memorable in the history of the consolation game.
One player has a chance to go down as the tournament’s all-time leading scorer, while another can continue to make his case as this summer’s best player. A number of players will be making their last audition for the tournament’s All-Star team at the same time Germany is giving the world a further glimpse of what’s in store for 2014. We could see the return of a villain and a hero, both the same person, along with the last World Cup appearances of two of this competition’s best strikers.
If none of that’s movie, there will remain one, very basic reason to watch.
1. Miroslav Klose Goes For World Cup History: German striker Miroslav Klose has fourteen career goals in World Cup play, tying him with legend Gerd Müller for the German record, putting him one short of Brazil’s Ronaldo for the tournament mark. Still, it is unclear whether Klose will play, the modest striker and the German team possibly ambivalent toward the mark.
2. Quest For The Golden Ball: David Villa and Wesley Sneijder are considered the leading candidates for the award given to the tournament’s best player (and one of those things is not like the other, in this year’s tournament), but Diego Forlán has been the finals’ best player. If he has an exceptionally strong match on Saturday, he could force the award into his hands, should neither Villa nor Sneijder shine in Johannesburg.
3. Last Audition: We hope Forlán is already on the 23-man All-Star team, whether he plays or not. For others, this could be a day that cements that honor. Diego Pérez, Maxi Pereira, Diego Gódin and Diego Lugano have made strong tournaments for La Celeste, and while Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, and Manuel Neuer may have little to prove, spots could be clinched for Sami Khedira, Lukas Podolski and center back Arne Friedrich, who has had a tournament that may be falling victim to hyper-analysis of German weaknesses.
4. Young Germans Rolled-Out Like Volkswagons Off A Fließband: We’ve seen a lot of Özil, Müller, Khedira, Neuer and Jerome Boateng. We’ve seen good chunks of Holger Badstuber and Toni Kroos. But there are even more young Germans who could be impact players for Brazil 2014. Defenders Sadir Tasci and Dennis Aogo are each only 23. Winger Marko Marin, 21, is sure to be an impact, change-of-pace (at least) player in Brazil. We could see each of them today.
5. La Regresa de El Santo, El Diablo: Luis Suárez is eligible to return today. Should he? I don’t care, at this point (not that I ever did). Will he? I hope so. While I just said "Let the kids play," I’m never against seeing the best players play more often. With three goals in five games, Suárez has been one of the tournament’s better players, and at only 23, he also falls under the kid exception. Whether he’s a saint or a devil - actually, let’s just move-on.
6. Reascending Giant: Uruguay was the sport’s first true super power. They won the first two World Cups they entered, help make the Rio de la Plata estuary (for a time) the most important place on the footballing globe, and with only a population of three million people, maintained their soccer power into the 1970s. Since, they have slipped, but this year sees La Celeste reassert themselves. A win over a German team that is both a historic and modern power will allow Uruguay to rightfully carry their chins high into the 2011 Copa América.
7. Last Cup Performances: For a number of players, this is likely their last World Cup match. Miroslav Klose is 32, and Arne Friedrich is 31. They’re unlikely to factor into German’s 2014 plans. El Loco Abreu is 33, Andrés Scotti is 34, and one that’s snuck-up on us: Diego Forlán is 31. This may be his last appearance in on this stage.
8. It’s Soccer, And The Teams Have Five Combined Titles: And coming from opposite ends of the world, they don’t play often. Just watch already.