Prior to the game, there was some talk on the need for this 63rd game of the 64 world cup matches, where both runners-up (not losers, mind you) from the semi-final matches will face off against each other for 3rd placing. One coach said this match is meaningless & it’ll be hard to motivate the players to perform well in this match. A pundit who was a full time Champions League Club coach echoed his views. This game is said to be great for business but not for the teams involved, as their minds will be on missing out on the final. Thankfully, this was not evident from last night’s match in Stuttgart.
Germany 3 – Portugal 0
BBC website started broadcasting the web video stream for this game about 10 minutes after it started, even then, only in standard quality. I prefer the higher quality video stream as the images are sharper. Within that 1st 10 minutes, I was already pondering whether I should run to the Bear & squeeze into a corner somewhere to watch the match. Didn’t fancy just listening to it via BBC 5 Live radio. BR is already back in Malaysia to settle his UK working visa, so no chance of watching it via his TV card equipped laptop.
On the line ups, Herr Lehmann thoughtfully stands down from goal to allow Oli Kahn his last hurrah prior to international football retirement. Ballack is also out due to injury. Nevertheless, Torsten Frings was back in the side after being suspended from the last match for his part in the post match debacle with Argentina. The big news from the Portuguese was that Figo didn’t make it to the starting line up. Rumour has it that he had a fall out with Big Phill, but it was later clarified by the coach that Figo was nursing a slight injury.
Portugal, as usual, started the match promisingly & threatened Kahn’s goal early. After starting off sluggishly, the Germans found their feet & began their own assault on Ricardo’s goal. There were many attempts on goal at both end & the German were like lining up to take the numerous free kicks awarded (though none found the back of the net). I must say, Pauleta played better in this 1st half than he did in the last 2 matches against Les Bleus & England.
The Germans took the lead with a cracker of a goal by Bastian Schweinsteiger 11 minutes into the 2nd half. This was followed by a free kick by the same player that was knocked past his own Ricardo by Petit. Schweinsteiger capped his night by hitting in another goal from a similar position before being substituted. Oh, there were some nice camera shots of Ferrari F1 ace Michael Schumacher watching the match from the stands of Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion, Stuttgart.
Figo, who like Oli Kahn & Pauleta will retire from international football after this world cup, earned his 127th cap by coming on as a late substitute. Even within a short spell on the pitch, Figo should his class by providing a pinpoint cross for Numo Gomez to head in a consolation goal for Portugal & deny Kahn a clean sheet.
In the end, the Germans may not reach Berlin, but Stuttgart is all theirs. What a match! If this match is anything to go by, I am more enthusiastic for the all blue final in Berlin later today.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, rightfully awarded man of the match, would have gotten the 1st & perhaps only hattrick in this world cup finals had the officials awarded him the 2nd goal (ala Hernan Crespo earlier in the tournament). As it is, it may be the 1st finals where no hattrick of goals are scored. I 1st noticed this player when reading up on the line up of each team. He caught my attention primarily coz part of his surname sounds like a stout-bodied short-legged omnivorous animal. Seriously, just listen to English football pundits like Alan Shearer who pronounce his name as ‘swine-steiger.’ Anyhow, I find him a rather good midfield player & was surprised he started on the bench for the semi-final match against Italy. Certainly a player to watch in the future as he’s on currently only 22 years old next birthday.
Another whizzkid on the field is a player who has the dubious honour of being the villain of this world cup - Cristiano Ronaldo. Our dear boy was up to his diving antics again but all of them were soundly ignored by the referee. The German crowd emulated the French & British by booing him every time he got his legs on the ball. He appears less effective than he was against the French team. The most recent rumour is that he may be on his way out of ManUre. His antics also cost him the Fifa young player of the World Cup award, which went to Germany striker Lukas Podolski.
Lastly, kudos to Jurgen Klinsmann for taking his team this far into the World Cup 2006. I’d like to add my vote into the hat for him to remain as Germany’s coach at least until Euro 2008.
To be concluded in Berlin…
Till later, live long & prosper.