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FIFA Sees Value in Third-Place Match

July 06, 2006|From Times Wire Reports

The third-place playoff will remain a World Cup fixture because, at least according to soccer's governing body, the losing semifinalists still have something to play for.

"There's still a high value in that match," FIFA communications director Markus Siegler said Wednesday, the morning after Germany lost, 2-0, to Italy in a semifinal.

Instead of appearing in the final Sunday at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, Germany will have to regroup for a playoff for third place against Portugal the previous evening in Stuttgart.

The usual criticism of the third-place match is that teams are deflated after losing semifinals and rarely perform at their peaks. "If you speak to players, for them it still matters whether they finish third or fourth," Siegler said. "This particular case, in which we have the German team involved, I'm pretty sure this will be another great match.

"There's still prestige, it's still about the team knowing, 'We finished third on the field of play.' "

There is no extra financial incentive. The third- and fourth-place teams each receive $17.5 million, according to FIFA. The World Cup champion receives $19.9 million, with the runner-up getting $18.25 million.

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Germany's young team has a bright future and can be proud of its World Cup, despite a semifinal loss to Italy. The task now is to persuade Coach Juergen Klinsmann to stay.

Klinsmann has asked for time before giving a final answer and is unlikely to make his decision known in the coming days. German soccer officials are urging for a quick reply but are willing to give Klinsmann time to make up his mind.

"We'd like an early reply, but it's the wrong time to put pressure," team manager Oliver Bierhoff said Wednesday.

Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, co-president of the German soccer federation, said he hopes Klinsmann stays on.

"Klinsmann has been a stroke of luck for German soccer," Mayer-Vorfelder said Wednesday. "He's started a project, and he should continue it."

Klinsmann's contract ends after the World Cup, and he wants to consult his family before deciding. Klinsmann has resisted calls to move back to Germany from his adopted home in Huntington Beach.

Franz Beckenbauer and other influential German soccer officials had criticized the way Klinsmann overhauled the team and ditched Germany's usual safety-first tactics. The coach has also drawn fire for adopting U.S.-style training methods and commuting from his home in the United States.

But Klinsmann won them over with his team's exuberant, attacking style that pleased the fans and took Germany into the last four, well beyond early expectations.

Even Beckenbauer urged Klinsmann to stay after Tuesday's game.

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Police in Berlin said on Wednesday they had arrested two men on suspicion of placing cement-filled soccer balls around the city and inviting people to kick them. At least two people injured themselves by kicking the balls, which were chained to lampposts and trees alongside the spray-painted message: "Can you kick it?"

Police said they had identified a 26-year-old and a 29-year-old and had found a workshop in their apartment where they made the balls.

The two are accused of causing serious physical injury, dangerous obstruction of traffic and causing injury through negligence, police said.

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