As for Uruguay, they were hoping to register their best effort in the tournament since 1970, and Oscar Tabarez was able to welcome back striker Luis Suarez for the fixture in Port Elizabeth after he missed their last-four encounter with the Netherlands through suspension.
Joachim Low had a fully-fit squad to choose from for the match, but he opted to make several changes to his lineup with Hans-Jorg Butt, Dennis Aogo, Marcell Jansen and Cacau all being given a start against the South Americans.
There were no signs of either side taking it easy in their final game of the tournament as Aogo and Cacau were cautioned inside the opening seven minutes, with the latter's foul giving Diego Forlan a chance from long range but his free kick drifted marginally over the crossbar.
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Germany provided a fast response, though, and after Arne Friedrich had struck the woodwork with a header, the 2002 runners-up took the lead in the 19th minute through Thomas Muller, who reacted fastest inside the penalty area after Bastian Schweinsteiger's 30-yard strike had been saved by Fernando Muslera.
However, it took Uruguay just 10 minutes to get back on level terms. Schweinsteiger was dispossessed by Diego Perez on the halfway line before Suarez played in Edinson Cavani to clip the ball over Butt and into the net.
The match was developing into an exciting contest in the pouring rain at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and Uruguay should have arguably been ahead at the break but Suarez squandered two openings in 60 seconds as they ended the half on top.
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La Celeste's momentum continued at the start of the second half and after Butt had denied him minutes earlier, Forlan got on the score sheet by sending a volley into the roof of the net after a curling delivery from the flank from Egidio Arevalo.
Their advantage lasted only a matter of five minutes as Germany struck back almost immediately. Uruguay stopper Muslera, who had endured a difficult evening, missed a Jerome Boateng cross and Jansen was there to head home his third international goal.
The opportunity was there for Germany to try to establish a foothold in the game but back came Uruguay through Suarez, who, after creating another chance for Forlan, danced past Friedrich before being denied by a last-ditch tackle by Schweinsteiger.
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However, with 20 minutes remaining, after Schweinsteiger had an effort deflected wide and Stefan Kiessling saw his strike saved by Muslera, Germany netted the fifth and decisive goal in what had turned out to be one of the most enthralling matches of the tournament.
A corner from the right-hand side was headed back across into the six-yard box, and after Diego Lugano had struggled to react, Sami Khedira took advantage to direct an header into the corner from close range.
That goal deflated an already exhausted Uruguay and that allowed Germany to push for a fourth, but despite Boateng and Kiessling wasting openings in the closing stages, Schwarz und Weiss were able to secure third position at a World Cup finals for the fourth time in their history.