Algeria had never lost to Germany in their history and were trying to maintain that record, while the Germans would try to break that, in a clash where they were firm favorites.
The scoreline at the end of regulation time was 0-0 and Algeria maintained their record, but Germany pulled through in Extra Time. It was one of the most exhilarating and fun goalless draws we’ve ever seen. The game was poised to be a walkover for the Germans, but the Algerians relished the underdog tag and played superbly.
This wonderful World Cup is running out of superlatives if not goals. It took until extra-time for one to be scored during this intriguingly epic last-16 tie but that was no reflection of the brilliance of this encounter in which one of the tournament’s favourites, Germany, were pushed all the way, had to strain every sinew to subdue Algeria. They were taken to the edge in doing so.
This was no plucky, backs-against-the-wall rearguard action that Germany faced. Algeria were as dangerous as they were courageous. Germany appeared to believe they would progress to a quarter-final meeting at the Maracana on Friday against France by their mere presence. How wrong they were. There were tears at the end for Algeria’s Bosnian coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, who had attempted to be stoic but could not control his emotions.
They wanted it so much – and that showed from the kick-off from when they smartly, diligently soaked up the inevitable German pressure and then attacked but they could not force the goal their play deserved.
The statistics will show how much Germany dominated possession, they will show they peppered the Algerian goal, with 24 attempts in normal time alone, and with goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi having to produce one of the most quixotically accomplished displays.
But it should not be forgotten that Germany’s most impressive performer was their own goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, who brought a new definition to the role of the ‘sweeper-keeper’ as he had to hurtle out to buffer the Algerians and, in particular, their rapid, direct, hard-running striker Islam Slimani. He has 59 touches in the game, 21 outside his box. Stunning stuff.
As accomplished and imposing as Neuer was they were also indebted to Andre Schürrle, who scored and helped create Mesut Özil’s decisive goal, with the half-time introduction of the Chelsea forward finally giving Germany some impetus. Up until that point they had been sluggish and in danger of being overrun.
At halftime, Algeria seemed the better side, although their keeper had made many saves, one denying Gotze from point blank range.
Gotze was brought off and Schurrle came in and brought some fluency and directness to the mix. But Algeria would not be intimidated. They kept their shape, they maintained their discipline and they continued to threaten with Neuer having to remain alert to deny Slimani on two occasions even if it was, inevitably, Germany who were racking up the better opportunities as, finally, Thomas Müller began to have some influence but apparently he left his shooting boots home, as he was wasteful in front of goal.
Germany made their game changing switch due to an injury. Yes. Mustafi was injured and was brought off for Sami Khedira who took up his usual role, while Lahm was sent to Right back. This worked perfectly for Joachim Low, whose midfield was getting overrun by a spirited Algerian side. The game ended at 0-0 and we would have extra time.
Less than two minutes in and Germany struck. Müller crossed low and Schürrle ran in to finely improvise a finish, dragging the ball goal wards with his left leg as the cross ran behind him. Even then M’Bolhi got a hand to it but could not keep the ball out. Surely Algeria were beaten now? There was more drama to come. As the Algerians pushed higher, they were left exposed and then they were then caught out on the break. Özil and Schürrle exchanged passes and eventually the latter stroked a low shot which was hacked off the line. The rebound fell to Özil and he steered it high into the net. Although Ozil scored a goal, he had a shocker of a game, providing minimal impact until the 118th minute. Algeria did a pull a goal back, but it was a mere consolation.
Germany had won – but they were not the only victors. They would now face France and their tag of favourites was gone. They had shown that they are not invincible and they can be exposed. Germany did have weaknesses and could be exploited. They had played very few bad matches under Low but this performance took things to new levels; passes went astray, Per Mertesacker was routinely exposed – and outpaced – by his hungry opponents, Benedikt Howedes looked incapable of winning a duel and Shkodran Mustafi was horrendously out of his depth.
They would’ve been out if not for Neuer’s heroics. Well done Algeria, who made a record of scoring in 3 consecutive World Cup games and to their players for a great effort. 16/23 men were fasting from that squad and it makes their achievement even more commendable.
Our/FIFA Man Of The Match – Raïs M’Bolhi
Unlucky to be on the losing side. A series of acrobatic saves kept his side in the game right until the end. Showed superb concentration as he was constantly tested. His contribution and influence on the game was most telling.
Our Flop Of The Match – Mario Götze
Never got going in this game, neither creating nor getting on the end of chances. He seemed like man without a mission, just running around without any rewards. He missed an absolute sitter before the break and subbed at half time for Schurrle who filled in his boots with some comfort.