Germany aiming to finish on a high
STUTTGART, July 7: Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann returns to his home city of Stuttgart tomorrow for the World Cup third-place match determined to finish the campaign in style and give the fans something to celebrate.
Klinsmann, who was born in a small town near the city and made his name as a clinical finisher at VfB Stuttgart, has every reason to be proud of returning there to face Portugal.
The hosts, who went further than most people expected and only lost to Italy after extra time in the semi-final, want to give the fans something to cheer in their final appearance.
There is also the matter of clinching the golden shoe award for striker Miroslav Klose, who tops the World Cup scoring charts with five goals so far but is doubtful through injury.
''We definitely want to win the match. In the Olympics the bronze medal counts for something,'' said goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who may drop out of the starting lineup to give Germany's number two Oliver Kahn a taste of the action.
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has his own reasons for wanting to finish the tournament with a victory.
''We have to get rid of this melancholy, we still have a target,'' said the upbeat Brazilian. ''Third place at the World Cup is not to be sniffed at. We'll go on to the field with the same dedication we've shown so far.'' The third-place match is often criticised as a lame duck but the hosts, Portugal and FIFA have all put on a brave face before the game and a sell-out crowd will ensure a vibrant atmosphere.
The fixture is notorious, though, for pitting two emotionally shattered teams against each other when they might prefer to slink off home and bury their sorrows quietly.
Germany, in particular, will have a big job to lift themselves after their dramatic semi-final defeat on Tuesday, when Italy scored twice at the end of extra time.
Portugal's dream of a first appearance in the World Cup final ended with a controversial penalty as they lost 1-0 to France on Wednesday.
Their exit was less traumatic as they surpassed expectations by making the last four for the first time since 1966.
FIFA defends the third-place fixture's existence at every World Cup and spokesman Markus Siegler was clearly prepared when, inevitably, he was questioned about it on Wednesday.
''I believe there is still a high value in this match,'' he said. ''For the players it matters whether they come in third or fourth.'' ''Especially with Germany playing in the match I think the interest will be high. It is a prestige thing. It's about knowing where the teams finished on the field of play.'' Germany are certainly taking the game very seriously and Klose will be desperate to play since his five-goal tally is two ahead of Thierry Henry and three in front of Luca Toni, the France and Italy strikers who are preparing for Sunday's final.
However, the tournament's top scorer may have to miss the match with a calf problem and Germany will also be without defender Per Mertesacker, who will have surgery on his foot this week, and right back Arne Friedrich with a knee injury.
Portugal also have at leat one player missing with defender Ricardo Carvalho suspended and right back Miguel doubtful after limping out of Wednesday's 1-0 defeat by France.
Germany: (4-4-2) - 12-Oliver Kahn; 6-Jens Nowotny, 21-Christoph Metzelder, 4-Robert Huth, 16-Philipp Lahm; 19-Bernd Schneider, 5-Sebastian Kehl, 13-Michael Ballack, 18-Tim Borowski; 20-Lukas Podolski, 11-Miroslav Klose
Portugal: (4-5-1) 1-Ricardo; 2-Paulo Ferreira, 5-Fernando Meira, 4-Ricardo Costa, 14-Nuno Valente; 6-Costinho, 18-Maniche, 7-Luis Figo, 17-Cristiano Ronaldo, 20-Deco; 9-Pauleta
Referee: Toru Kamikawa (Japan) Linesmen: Yoshikazu Hiroshima (Japan), Dae Young Kim (Korea)