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Teams pick up pieces for third-place game

OCTOPICKER: Paul the Octopus “predicts” Spain to win the World Cup final by choosing a mussel from a tank marked with a Spanish flag. The resident of an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, picked the winning flag before each German match in the tournament.

Associated Press

OCTOPICKER: Paul the Octopus “predicts” Spain to win the World Cup final by choosing a mussel from a tank marked with a Spanish flag. The resident of an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, picked the winning flag before each German match in the tournament.

JOHANNESBURG — It's one of the hardest games in soccer to prepare for.

Just days after the bitter disappointment of missing out on the World Cup final, players from Uruguay and Germany have to lift themselves one final time for today's third-place match at Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Uruguay brought back memories of previous glory (titles in 1930 and 1950) with its run, but the Celeste left Cape Town devastated after a 3-2 semifinal loss Tuesday to the Netherlands.

"We've had a good tournament, and it's been a fine World Cup for us," added M Egidio Arevalo, "but we're still gutted."

For Germany, its 1-0 defeat Wednesday by Spain was possibly even more painful. The Germans lead the tournament with 13 goals but came up empty in its semifinal, the same stage where they stumbled in 2006 as host.

But it's not all doom and gloom in the consolation game, as Germany found out four years ago. Captain Phillip Lahm said the team still remembers the enthusiastic reception by the home fans after a 3-1 win over Portugal.

"We saw four years ago how great this game can be, and we want to go home with a win and with a good feeling," Lahm said.

Uruguay F Diego Forlan was replaced in the 84th minute Tuesday with a strained right thigh but said he hopes to be fit today. F Luis Suarez returns from a one-game suspension after his goal-saving handball against Ghana in the quarterfinals.

For Germany, Miroslav Klose, who has 14 career World Cup goals and needs one to tie the all-time record held by Brazil's Ronaldo, has a strained back but also hopes to play.

FINAL VIEWS: Spain is focused on stopping Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder and the dangerous Dutch offense in Sunday's final. Keeping Sneijder in check in Johannesburg likely falls to M Sergio Busquets.

"Sneijder is such a great player, and he showed it this season with … Inter Milan," which won the Italian League, Italian Cup and European Champions League, Busquets said. "To stop him we have to try and be one unit so that he doesn't even have a moment to think."

FANS IN WAITING: Management of South Africa's airports will reimburse at least 600 fans in six aircraft who missed the Spain-Germany match because of congestion at the Durban airport. Airports Company South Africa said it has set aside $52,000 to be distributed to those affected.

PLATINI SCARE: UEFA president and French playing legend Michel Platini will stay in a Johannesburg hospital overnight after collapsing in a restaurant. William Gaillard, a special adviser to Platini, said the head of European soccer's governing body fainted, but initial tests at the hospital showed his condition was not serious.

Teams pick up pieces for third-place game 07/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 10, 2010 12:09am]

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