Uruguay 2-3 Germany
The third-place game is FIFA’s way of telling two teams, “That’s OK. We can just cuddle,” and the only reason I’m covering this game is because I hate passing up an opportunity to use that line. Still, this match, like cuddling, is never without its charms. It’s usually wide-open, with both teams given a second chance at going home with a medal, and plenty of mistakes made by guys who are tired from too many games or because they haven’t seen much action all month This one was no exception.
But as for the action, Thomas Mueller’s opening goal came after Mesut Ozil brilliantly held the ball while running through the middle of the field, and, by continuing his run after passing off to Marcell Jansen, he freed up space for Bastian Schweinsteiger’s shot. Why is this important? Because of these four players, Schweinsteiger, who turns 26 next month, is the oldest of the bunch. Throw 25-year old Lukas Podolski in the mix and you have a Germany team that will be very dangerous, and fun to watch, for a long time. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I’d have to say they’re the favorites in Euro 2012.
And don’t discount Uruguay out of future greatness, especially with the 2014 World Cup being played in Brazil. Diego Forlan, at 35, will most likely not be able to start, but he’ll be a much better late-game substitution for Uruguay that Sebastian Abreu was this time. It’s hard to think that they will ever challenge Brazil’s and Argentina’s duopoly over South American soccer, solely because they are so much smaller than those countries. But something tells me there’s a stability there that suggests that they will not disappear from the world stage the way Turkey and Senegal did after 2002.
Final: Netherlands v. Spain
The most important person on the field will be the referee. If he is able to let the Netherlands’ Mark van Bommel know early enough in the game that his hacking will not be tolerated, then Spain will be able to dominate possession as they’ve done throughout this tournament. If van Bommel is left unchecked, then Holland have a very good chance of winning. It’s sad to say that’s the difference, but it is. These are my second and third favorite teams in the world (behind the United States, of course), so I’ll be satisfied regardless of the outcome. But I picked Spain at the beginning of the tournament, and there’s no reason why I should change that now that the championship is within their reach.
Prediction: Spain 2, Netherlands 1