Johannesburg: Germany and Uruguay are both talking up the honour of finishing third in the World Cup but it is the battle to be first in the goalscorers’ list that seems to be the chief attraction of Saturday’s playoff.
Four players in the game are in with a fighting chance of taking the Golden Boot with one of them, Germany’s Miroslav Klose, also needing one goal to match Brazilian Ronaldo as the joint all-time top scorer with 15.
Klose is currently on four, as is fellow striker Thomas Mueller, back in contention after being suspended for the semi-final defeat by Spain.
Uruguay’s Diego Forlan also has four to his name with Luis Suarez, back too after being suspended for the semis, on three.
Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Spain striker David Villa each have five and can add to their tallies in Sunday’s final.
Klose won the Golden Boot in 2006 with five goals having also scored five in 2002 but his chances of topping the all-time list have been hit by a bout of flu that has laid low several German players as well as Coach Joachim Loew.
Loew skipped Germany’s news conference at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium -- sparsely attended in comparison with the heaving throng hanging on every word before their previous two matches -- with assistant Hansi Flick standing in.
“Miroslav Klose is very close to breaking the World Cup record but he is struggling with illness at the present time,” Flick said.
“There has been significant improvement but we have not got 100 percent certainty.”
Flick said that, should Germany be awarded a penalty, then the usual taker, Bastian Schweinsteiger, would probably take it but added: “If he wants to give it, if Miri thinks he’s going to hit it home, we’ll see.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez, while insisting the battle for third place was the main issue, was also drawn into the goalscoring debate.
“It’s possible for Klose to score but I don’t want him to,” he said.
“He’s a very strong player with a lot of experience, and when he was sent off and suspended that was when Germany had problems.
“He is one of the great all-time players of the World Cup.”
In the 1994 third/fourth playoff Bulgaria tried so hard to feed Hristo Stoichkov chances to secure sole ownership of the Golden Boot he shared with Oleg Salenko that they forgot about the rest of the match and were thrashed 4-0 by Sweden.
Tabarez said his side would not fall into the same trap.
Forlan, who has been the model of an unselfish team player throughout the tournament, went off in the closing stages of the 3-2 semi-final defeat by Netherlands but though Tabarez said he would start Saturday’s game he said there would be no focus on individual honours.
“He’s fine, he will play but he’s not going for the Golden Boot,” he said. “It’s a collective sport and he’s the first to say it’s about the team.