Germany's coach Joachim Löw deprived his striker Miroslav Klose the chance of setting a World Cup scoring record but said he had no option but to leave the flu-stricken player out of the third-place play-off.
Klose, who came down with the virus after Germany's semi-final defeat by Spain on Wednesday, was a goal away from equalling the Brazilian Ronaldo's record of 15 goals and at 32 years old is unlikely to play in the next World Cup.
Löw said clinching third place was Germany's priority in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night, and that Klose's inclusion could have crucially weakened his side against Uruguay, who conceded the opening goal but took a 2-1 lead shortly after half-time.
"We needed 100 per cent from everyone so we couldn't afford to use players who were not fit," Löw said after the win, which capped an impressive tournament for a young and inexperienced team largely written off in the run-up to South Africa.
"This is why we didn't field injured or ill players. It would have been irresponsible. He simply couldn't play, he failed the fitness test," he added.
Klose recently finished one of the worst seasons of his career for Bayern Munich but was one of Germany's best performers here, scoring four of their 13 goals and putting himself in contention for the Golden Boot award.
Löw said he sympathised with Klose, who was bitterly disappointed but had admitted himself that playing in the last match would have been a mistake.
"He wanted to play but he said there was no point because he could only play a few minutes," Löw said. "He could hardly walk. There was no way I could have played him. Just imagine his feeling. He really wanted to play and was absolutely devastated but he knew it was the team that was important."
In the event Germany's attacking midfielder Thomas Müller and the Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan both scored on Saturday to draw level in the tournament scoring charts with five goals alongside Spain's David Villa and Dutchman Wesley Sneijder.
Müller's absence through suspension for the semi-final defeat was seen as a major factor in Germany's below-par performance against the Spanish but he insisted his team could hold their heads up high. "I couldn't play in the semi-final so it was important to put on a great show," he said. "We've shown we can perform at the top level. We've concluded in a very satisfactory way and the German people can be proud."
Uruguay's coach Oscar Tabarez paid tribute to his side, who were the last team to qualify for the World Cup but were among the last to leave it. "Uruguay have been one of the surprises of the tournament and we still don't realise what's happened back home," Tabarez said. "I received an email on Friday from a lady I didn't know who said, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you for having changed the image of our country'. I'm surprised – it's the beauty of sport and the serious work we've accomplished."
Tabarez's team were rated one of the least likely of the South Americans to make an impact, but the coach said they had gone out with all guns blazing. "The match was contested by two teams who really wanted to finish in third place, by two teams who gave everything. We made one mistake too many, but we showed that we were capable. We showed that we could compete with any team in the world."
Uruguay (4-3-3): Muslera; Fucile, Lugano, Godin, Caceres; Maxi Pereira, Perez (Gargano, 77), Arevalo Rios; Cavani (Abreu, 89), Suarez, Forlan.
Germany (4-2-3-1): Butt; Boateng, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Aogo; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Müller, Ozil (Tasci, 90), Jansen (Kroos, 81); Cacau (Kiessling 73).
Referee B Tellez (Mexico).