Third prize worth fighting for?
- 7 Jul 06, 03:06 PM
BERLIN - Jurgen Klinsmann has played in a World Cup final and has now managed on the highest stage by coaching his country to a semi-final.
Now he must take charge of a game that provokes mixed feelings among the World Cup community - namely the third place play-off.
Some regard this an unnecessary invasion into the World Cup calendar, a minor money-spinner in which those taking part - in this case Germany and Portugal - could actually do without.
In this instance, I think the match is valid and meaningful because it gives Klinsmann and his exciting Germany team a chance to pay back some of the faith they have been given over the last few weeks.
This country has been fervently in support of a coach they criticised before the tournament, and a team they feared went in as no-hopers but suddenly sparked hopes they could actually win it.
There will be emotion as well.
Will it be Klinsmann's final game in charge? Will it be Oliver Kahn's final game for his country?
It will mean a lot, and certainly Klinsmann is in no mood to meekly accept fourth place.
He said: "This is not the final we had hoped for. We wanted to be in Berlin for the big final. We will now play the small final and we will give it all we have got and the team will play their hearts out one more time."
The transformation in feelings towards Klinsmann and this German team has been remarkable, and the coach is the unifying symbol.
Smiling, hugely-popular and with just a hint of an American twang these days from life in California, some people have just got it - and Klinsmann's got it.
But he is, beneath all that, an habitual winner so his foot will not be off the pedal in Stuttgart.
So it's all systems go for Germany v Portugal - but would it have been the same for Italy v Portugal?
There's the rub of the third place play-off. Would that have created such interest?
What's your view? It is meaningless or is it actually worth playing?
The motto of this World Cup is "A Time To Make Friends" - and it was all sweetness and light at Germany's final media conference in Berlin.
Staged at a lavish conference centre in the city, questions are overseen by Germany's media official Harald Stenger.
And Harald was offering the olive branch to any media colleagues he may have unintentionally offended during the long, tiring and stressful World Cup campaign.
He announced to the media from the stage: "I may have resorted to very harsh language on occasions, but I never meant to criticise their personality, only their style of work."
Touching words indeed.
Harald also gave what he told me was "the red card" to one British media man (not from the BBC I hasten to add) who over-stepped the mark after the semi-final in Dortmund.
Not a man to be trifled with it seems, Harald also got an accolade of his own after it emerged he came to the aid of Germany backroom boy Oliver Bierhoff when fisticuffs broke out at the end of their quarter-final win against Argentina.
All the media staff presented him with a t-shirt with a shot of Harald going into action, complete with message "Harald The Fighter" emblazoned underneath the picture.
Jurgen Klinsmann keenly claimed his, while Harald happily lined up with staff for a team photo, all wearing the latest trendy t-shirt in Germany.
A time to make friends indeed...