Consolation for the hosts

Bastian Schweinsteiger was the hero for Germany as the host nation, who may have been craving for the final, proved they were still hungry in the `mini-final', writes Ben Gladwell.

Bastian Schweinsteiger was the hero for Germany as they officially ended the 2006 World Cup as the third-best side after demolishing Portugal 3-1 in Stuttgart. The host nation may have been craving for the final, but they proved they were still hungry in the `mini-final'.

Schweinsteiger, who was left out of Germany's semifinal after a perceived dip in form, showed he was back to his best with two excellent strikes in the 56th and 78th minutes. In between, his free-kick also tempted Portuguese midfielder Petit to put through his own goal and the standing ovation when Schweinsteiger left the field to be replaced by Thomas Hitzlsperger was more than merited.

Nuno Gomes headed in a late consolation, but Portugal ultimately had no answer to neither Schweinsteiger, nor his Bayern Munich teammate Oliver Kahn, who was phenomenal in the Germany goal. Kahn announced his retirement from international football after the match. The hosts made a bright start with the pressure generated by the home fans' expectations in previous games no longer evident. While Germany may not be renowned for being the most technically gifted side in the world, they were nonetheless learning from their opponents Portugal, who with the fleet-footed Cristiano Ronaldo and vision of Simao Sabrosa, were also looking to please the crowd.

Nuno Valente, Deco and Pauleta forged the opening chance of the game with some neat interplay, which was copied by Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose and Bernd Schneider within seconds. Neither side were able to provide the finish the build-up play had deserved, though.

Philipp Lahm created the next chance of the game with a typical raid down the wing, tempting Nuno Valente into a rash challenge. Bernd Schneider sent the resulting free-kick into the danger area and the ball finally fell to the feet of Sebastian Kehl on the edge of the area, but the Borussia Dortmund midfielder's shot took a slight deflection as it flew agonisingly wide of the post.

Miroslav Klose, with five goals the tournament's top scorer, was looking to engrave his name on the golden boot award, but in doing so, failed to spot his strike partner Lukas Podolski as he sent in a weak effort. He would certainly have heard Podolski's scream after the shot failed to ruffle the back of the net, however.

Simao and Pauleta were at the centre of Portugal's most dangerous play and, with fifteen minutes gone, they combined to give Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn his first moment of anxiety. The latter beat the offside trap to latch onto the former's delicate through ball and looked to place his shot into the far corner, but Kahn dived low to his left to make the save.

Portugal were growing in confidence and the impressive Kehl had to be alert to avert the danger after Deco looked for a colleague across goal. Kehl then showed his attacking prowess, feigning to shoot with his right foot, shifting the ball back onto his left and then attempting to lob Ricardo from 20 yards, but the last line of the Portugal defence back-tracked to tip the effort over the crossbar. Podolski was named FIFA's young player of the tournament and he tried to justify the choice with a fizzing 20-yard free-kick which Ricardo, in self-defence more than anything, fisted away.

Simao was Portugal's creative outlet on the left wing instead of Luis Figo and he spotted Deco, once again given far too much room inside the Germany penalty area. The Barcelona playmaker turned to curl his shot just over the angle of post and crossbar. It may have been a goalless first half, but it held a lot of promise for the second 45 minutes and, like in the first half, Germany were soon in the mood to attack. This time, however, they were rewarded as Schweinsteiger fired a 25-yard drive past a nervy Ricardo. The Bayern Munich midfielder may have been frustrated at his omission from the starting eleven against Italy and he seemed intent on taking it out on the ball, not that anybody was complaining. Portugal's half-time substitute Petit made the unlucky intervention which sent Schweinsteiger's low driven free-kick past his own goalkeeper as Germany doubled their advantage. Goal number three was equally impressive and it could be nobody but Schweinsteiger who handed Germany victory with another stunning strike. An almost carbon-copy of his first goal allowed Klinsmann and Co. to celebrate third place in the World Cup. Ricardo, at least this time, could not be blamed, such was the power and precision in Schweinsteiger's shot. As Germany, and in particular Schweinsteiger, appeared to be finding it easy to find the back of the net, it was not for the lack of trying that Portugal were unable to do likewise.

Kahn was eager to make up for his mistake, which handed Brazil the World Cup four years ago and he made several inspirational saves to keep out Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Germany captain, in his last ever appearance for his country, played his part in a memorable evening for Germany, although he could do little to stop Nuno Gomes from heading in a consolation late on. All that remains now is for Klinsmann to decide on his future, but as his name echoed around the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium, turning his back on emotions such as those the host nation have experienced at the 2006 World Cup would take a lot of guts.

© PA Sport, 2006, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited.

Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.