Everyone fully expected Germany to be here. Always the powerhouse, amongst the tournament favorites and overloaded with some of the most talented players in the world, this has been the nature of Die Mannschaft for the vast majority of it’s history. Despite the storied teams in their history, the one blemish on their resume are the events that transpired in the 1982 World Cup, where they played first-time participant Algeria in the opening match of the group stage.
To make a long story short, a very talented but vastly under-rated Algeria side defeated the European Champions 2-1 in one of the bigger shocks in World Cup history, but what was to transpire after is what was even more surprising. In the final group stage match, Germany and Austria faced off against each other the day after Algeria’s final match of the round – it would end up becoming a despicable instance of match fixing on the part of both European nations.
Knowing that a 1-0 win for Germany would send both through and see Algeria crash out, Germany would score in the opening ten minutes, but for the remaining eighty, both teams would aimlessly pass the ball around making little to no effort at all. In their debut performance Algeria would be sent home, and while this is now their fourth appearance at the World Cup, this is the first time they have made it out of the group and in fitting fashion, meet the nation who so wrongly cheated them over three decades ago.
As expected this summer, Germany topped their group and are seemingly on the road to another potential run to the final, but no one expected Algeria to get out of their group ahead of Russia (shame on us, Russia was under the stewardship of Fabio Capello). Algeria may not be defending well, but they lead their group in goals scored and nearly pulled out a positive result against Belgium. If history has taught Germany anything at all (clearly the First World War didn’t), 1982 must serve as a reminder that you never should underestimate your opponent on the worlds biggest stage.
Projected Starting XI’s
Germany (4-3-3): Neuer; Howedes, Hummels, Mertesacker, Boateng; Lahm, Schweinsteiger Kroos; Ozil, Muller, Gotze
Algeria (4-2-3-1): M’Bolhi; Mesbah, Halliche, Bougherra, Mandi; Bentaleb, Medjani; Djabou, Brahimi, Feghouli, Slimani
Key’s for Germany:
- Given Joachim Low’s stubbornness in refusing to play proper full-backs instead of Howedes and Boateng, Germany must make sure that they are not caught out and exposed for lack of pace against an Algeria side that thrive on the counter attack. It may mean far less support going forward, but sending only one of the pair of them forward at a time may be best.
- Podolski may be held in high regard by Low, and his 40 goals for Germany in his career is impressive, but Germany were far better in the group stage with the trio of Ozil, Muller and Gotze. Given Podolski’s over-reliance on his left foot and sub-par mobility off the ball, Germany are far less threatening in the final third when he is included. Low needs to stick to what has worked.
- Being tactically flexible. Due to the success of Lahm’s deployment as a defensive midfielder under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich this past season, Low has decided to use him in the same fashion, but the truth of the matter is, Lahm has been the best right-back in the world for the better part of eight years and it is where he is best. If Boateng is too exposed on the right, a simple shift of Lahm to right-back and Boateng to defensive midfield until a proper change at the half can be made would do wonders for Germany.
Key’s for Algeria:
- Channel the passion and sentiments of revenge for 1982 into a positive performance. When a team is united by a common goal, that often times brings out the best in them. Algeria is more talented than they have been given credit, just like in 1982, so they will still feel they have a point to prove that it’s no fluke that they are in the round of 16.
- Winning the midfield battle against Germany would do wonders to aid their chances of another major upset. The trio of Bayern players are some of the most talented midfielders around, but often times they can be caught in possession, especially Lahm. High pressure in the center of the park could yield favorable results if it’s done consistently and efficiently.
- If possible, run at both Mertesacker and Hummels. Naturally it will be far harder to beat Hummels 1 v 1 than Mertesacker, but both are so strong in the air and have such positional awareness that it’s hard to get through them with movement off the ball. Taking them on in and around the box could give Algeria quite a few set-piece situations they would hopefully capitalize on.
- Bougherra v Muller – 4 goals for the German sniper thus far and you still have to say he’s one of the favorites to win the golden boot after doing so four years ago. He’s fantastic outside the box and off the ball, but where Muller shines is in the area around the 6 yard box getting on the end of crosses that flash in front of goal. He’s a killer, so Bougherra must be equally as ruthless of a defender if Algeria wants any hope of winning.
- Feghouli v Howedes – It’s not that Howedes is a poor defender, far from it, it’s just that he’s not a full-back. He has had a habit of giving away possession on the flank too easily and given his lack of pace for the position, it can burn Germany but it hasn’t truly done so yet – cue Feghouli to potentially be the one to expose him. Feghouli has quality and it shows at club level for Valencia. He’s played well this tournament, but there is a gear he has yet to hit truly, and if he does against Germany, it could be a nightmare for their left flank.
- Bentaleb v Kroos – Bentaleb has built on his breakout year at Tottenham this summer with very good performances for his country, solidifying his place in the Algerian XI. His engine never stops running, and it must do the same today against Germany if he wants to snuff out the threat of Toni Kroos from pulling the strings in deeper areas of the pitch. If Kroos is left unattended, Algeria are in serious trouble.
Algeria will not be easy to break down. They did surrender five goals in the group stage, but two of those came against Belgium who topped the group, and a further two came against South Korea in a match that was a must win. Against Germany, they’ll be far more defensively responsible, at least until the scenario happens where they need to chase a goal which will see them opened up. They’ll play with fire and passion, and they’ll work as hard as they are able, but yet again, the quality that Germany have always finds a way to rise to the surface, despite the fact that they have a wonderful team game in their own right. It won’t be the blowout many are expecting, but Germany should do well and progress; 2-0 Germany.