It as not to be the moment that saw Algeria shock Germany for a second time at a World Cup while setting the record straight. Just as we have seen in the knockout stage so many times before today, quality always bests hard work and passion. In one of the most entertaining and action-packed matches of the entire World Cup, Germany sent Algeria home with a 2-1 win, the ghosts of 1982 almost had their laugh again.
Brilliant and inspired are the only words that come to mind for the performance that Algeria put on for all the world to see. But no matter how bad they wanted it, just that little bit extra was missing from their overall performance, which was highlighted by brilliant goalkeeping from Rais M’Bolhi.
On any other day, Germany could well have been sent crashing out in stunning fashion, but Joachim Low’s men would dig deepest in the end, earning progression and a date with long-time rivals France in the quarterfinals. Even if many still fancy Germany, after today, you just have to wonder if they are capable of producing what is required – France will surely fancy their chances against them.
Germany (4-3-3): Neuer; Howedes, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Boateng; Schweinsteiger, Lahm; Kroos; Ozil, Muller, Gotze
Algeria (4-4-2): M’Bolhi; Ghoulam,Halliche, Belkalem, Mandi; Taider, Mostefa, Lacen, Feghouli; Slimani, Soudani
The first ten minutes saw Algeria attack Germany with plenty of pace, looking to capitalize on the only weakness in the German XI; their lack of recognized full-backs. No numerous occasions the Germans nearly paid the price, no more so than in the first five minutes when Slimani would force a brilliant save from Neuer after he would gallop past the German back-four. The likes of Ghana and the United States had already tried to expose Germany in the same fashion – Ghana succeeded, and the early evidence suggested that Algeria would do so in similar fashion as well.
Much in the way Mexico came out with all guns blazing against the Netherlands, Algeria began the match with very high pressure, forcing the Germans to make mistakes and cause them to look far more defensive than they would have preferred – keeping Germany off the board early is one step of many that is required to gain a positive result against them, and in the first fifteen minutes, Algeria had the better run of play.
Germany began to wrestle away a little more possession in better areas, but the high pressure from Algeria still caused them a great bit of grief – whether it was fueled by revenge for 1982 or not, Algeria was out to make a statement, and with fifteen minutes left in the half, Germany hardly looked like having a proper sniff at goal, while Algeria was on the front foot.
Germany nearly made it 1-0 in the 39th minute after a rasping drive by Schweinsteiger was parried by M’Bolhi right in the path of Gotze, who’s tap-in effort was well saved by the sprawling Algerian keeper to keep the match deadlocked at 0-0 and in the process denying Germany a goal they truly did not deserve. The half would conclude at 0-0, but it must be said that Algeria had the far better run of play over the first 45 minutes. The Desert Foxes were doing a job over the nation of birth of the real Desert Fox – Germany would need to improve drastically if their summer was not to come to a shocking and abrupt end.
Changes would be immediate by Joachim Low. In an attempt to up the tempo both on and off the ball, Andre Schurrle was brought on for Gotze – Schurrle being a player with more pace and a more direct style, Low would hope his side would respond going forward where they failed to make an impression in doing so in the first half. It almost paid immediate dividends after Germany did so well to get into the final third – Kroos would do well to beat his marker by the end line and float a ball in the box that met the head of Mustafi, but his effort was right at M’Bolhi. It was positive from the Germans from the start of the second half.
Germany did begin to turn the screws as the match progressed. Algeria’s threat going forward began to stall a little bit, and while Germany didn’t create quality scoring chances, the intent that was lacking in the first half began to come to the surface. An injury to Mustafi would see Khedira brought on and slotted into midfield, with Lahm going to right-back and Boateng slotting over to his preferred center-back. It gave them a far more familiar look at the back with a bit more solidarity.
In the last twenty minutes, Algeria had signs off life again going forward and they once again started to beat the German back four for pace, but they still lacked the finishing product. Germany would come so close in the 79th minute but M’Bolhi produced a fantastic close range double save on first Muller and then Schurrle after Khedira played a pin-point cross into the box. A minute later, Muller did so well to control in the box after a brilliant ball from Khedira and then beat his defender, but his side footed effort would scuff wide – the German battering ram was beginning to pound on the door.
Despite Germany creating further chances in the box, each and every one of them was snuffed out by M’Bolhi and the rest of the Algerian defense. In a shocking twist, Germany and Algeria were headed into extra time, in a match where everyone surely thought the European side would steamroll the North Africans.
Just ninety seconds into extra time, a brilliant low ball from Muller to the near post was slotted home by Schurrle. Algeria, doing so well to get to extra time, now had to chase a goal which would leave them open to potentially surrendering another.
Algeria would almost level matters in the 101st minute when a loss ball in the box after a corner was flashed wide of goal from Mustafi – Algeria so nearly found the equalizer they deserved. Try and try they did, in admirable fashion, this was not to be the moment of retribution for 1982.
A quick break by Schurrle and Ozil would see the Chelsea man’s effort saved, but the ball would fall to Ozil who would roof it at the far post to put Germany 2-0 up. But with thirty seconds left, Algeria would peg one back through Djabou after a brilliant ball from Feghouli – it was no more than they deserved and perhaps they even deserved more, but the match would end sending the Germans through to a quarterfinal matchup with rival France.
Man of the Match
Rais M’Bolhi – If there was ever a performance that personified the fighting spirit of a team, it was M’Bolhi tonight. He was simply brilliant in goal for the Fennec Foxes. Stonewalling multiple German onslaughts on his goal, even he could not stop the two goals that would eventually bulge the back of the onion bag, but still and yet, he was absolutely brilliant. Goalkeeping in a major tournament is so often overlooked behind the performances of a teams attacking players, but it was the inspired play between the posts that would be the root cause of the brilliant team performance that Algeria would put on display against their offenders from 1982.