Germany coach Joachim Löw was forced to skip training and stay in bed yesterday in the run-up to today's third place play-off against Uruguay, after coming down with a flu virus.
Löw, whose future as Germany coach will be decided after the World Cup, will, however, travel to Port Elizabeth with the team for today's game.
Philipp Lahm, the captain, was also struck down with the flu, along with Lukas Podolski, while Miroslav Klose and the second-choice goalkeeper Tim Wiese were also missing from the training session at Atteridgeville near Pretoria, recovering from minor injuries.
Germany's general manager, Oliver Bierhoff, said it was not yet clear who would play against Uruguay but said the team was determined to help Klose, should he play, equal Ronaldo's World Cup goal record of 15. Klose has scored 14 in three tournaments.
"I think there is a big drive within the team and also his wish to move higher up the list," Bierhoff said. He also explained that it was also not clear whether Germany would field a full-strength team or if substitutes would start: "On the one hand we want to win this match and then there is the thought to thank the substitutes, who have been exceptional in training, throughout all this period. We want to end this tournament on a high note."
Thomas Müller could crown an "unbelievable" first season in top-flight football with the World Cup's young player of the tournament award after he was picked as one of three candidates. "It is a great honour to be selected as one of the nominees," the 20-year-old Bayern Munich striker said yesterday. "It is a wonderful recognition of your work."
The other two are Ghana's Dede Ayew and Mexico's Giovani dos Santos. Müller has scored four goals in his first World Cup, grabbing a starting spot for Germany throughout the tournament after winning his first cap as recently as March. He could add to this goal tally in Port Elizabeth today after missing Germany's 1-0 semi-final defeat to Spain through suspension.
Only 15 months ago Müller was playing third division football with the Bayern reserves. But in his first full season with the first team, Müller was instrumental in helping them win the domestic league and cup double as well as playing in their losing Champions League final against Internazionale. He then immediately joined the Germany squad at their training camp in Italy before flying to South Africa.
History will not favour, Uruguay – twice World Cup winners – in this match, as they finished fourth on the last two occasions they reached the semi-finals, losing out in the play-off to Austria in 1954 and to West Germany in 1970.
But they will be buoyed by the return from suspension of their gifted striker Luis Suarez, whose handball on the goal-line late in the match against Ghana helped put his team in the last four.
However, Uruguay – who lost 3-2 to Holland after a last-gasp fightback – could be without in-form marksman Diego Forlan, who sustained a thigh problem in the semi-final.
Three players who could figure in the play-off – Forlan, Müller and Klose – are joint second in the scoring charts after netting four times each. They all have an opportunity to win the golden boot if they can score twice and Spain's David Villa and the Dutchman Wesley Sneijder – joint top scorers with five – draw blanks in tomorrow's final.
Forlan said he was particularly eager to play in the third-place match and help Uruguay go out on a high. "I hope to be fit for Saturday," he said. "I really want to play for third place. Even that would be great for everyone."