Match highlights - Germany 3-2 Uruguay
Germany coach Joachim Loew said his young team had exceeded expectations by coming third in the 2010 World Cup.
The Germans beat Uruguay 3-2 in Port Elizabeth to finish in the top three for the 11th time in 17 appearances.
"We're going home with a very good feeling," said Loew. "Altogether, what we've achieved, we never would have expected it eight or nine months ago."
Germany thrashed England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0 before losing 1-0 to Spain in the semi-finals.
The third-place play-off was a pulsating affair, with both sides pressing for a victory.
Diego Forlan gave Uruguay a 2-1 lead early in the second half with a fine volley, but Germany equalised through Marcell Jansen and grabbed the victory when Sami Khedira's 82nd minute header found the net.
"In the second half, when we were forced to dig deep, we saw the mental strength the team had to resist and then snatch victory," said Loew.
"Champions rise again, we rose to the occasion again. We have every reason to be fully satisfied, no reason for disappointment, we will travel home feeling great."
The three-time champions were hit by a series of injuries to key players, including captain Michael Ballack, in the build-up to the World Cup but managed to produce some of the best football of the tournament with youngsters like Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller emerging as stars.
"Of course we had all hoped for something better, but this match for third place was also a final that we absolutely wanted to win," said Khedira.
"At this World Cup we were a very young team and we've put down a marker. But we obviously want to win more in the future."
Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was handed the captain's armband in the absence of Philipp Lahm, said the bronze medals would not make up for missing out on the final.
"Luckily, we won, because the disappointment over the semi-final was still there," Schweinsteiger said.
"We were behind and we rallied, that shows the character if this team. I am very proud of this team although I have tears in one eye because we did not reach the final."