Germany vs Algeria analysis World Cup 2014: Mesut Ozil tries patience in last-gasp win
It was to be Andre Schurrle who eventually decided this match in extra-time to take Ozil and the whole Germany experiment forward
Monday 30 June 2014
In a World Cup that has defied order and logic Germany continued to test both to their very limits last night in Porto Alegre. Joachim Löw’s attempt to become the first manager to win it all without a natural striker will roll on to the Maracana and a date with France.
It will do so though, only after surviving an almighty test at the hands of Algeria. Of the six knock-out games already played, just one - Colombia’s ousting of Uruguay - could be said to have been decided with the game entering the final minutes. Having watched France flounder before them, Germany danced with death for so long here.
The stands were filled with thousands of German descendants who came from nearby suburbs with names like Novo Hamburgo, the weather was distinctly North London in January rather than South Brazil with grey skies and temperatures barely crawling in double figures. It should have felt like a home away from home away from home for Mesut Özil.
Özil’s debut season in English football produced some highlights, some lowlights and a lot of time spent operating in the half-light. It wasn’t disappointing, there just weren’t enough £42.5million moments to suggest Arsene Wenger had got the bang that matched the bucks he’d finally freed from frugal fingers.
And that’s how it had gone for Özil here in Brazil too, who finally had something to smile about when he scored Germany’s second late in extra time. His start-stop displays in the first two games led to concerns. Özil responded by echoing Wayne Rooney’s pleas, asking to be put more front and centre against the US, rather than positioned out wide.
“Everyone knows I’m a playmaker,” he said. “It is my favourite position but the coach decides on the system. Now I play on the right. I don’t have all the freedom.”
Instead Bastian Schweinsteiger came into the middle then with Toni Kroos in front of him and Löw again called Ozil ashore early after he had neither improved nor looked like scoring. The manager’s eve-of-battle media session here had been peppered with questions over the Schweinsteiger-Sami Khedira dilemma. The feeling though was that Özil had reached the point where another ineffective display would see his place up for grabs next time out.
Andre Schurrle scores the first goal for Germany against Algeria
Simply assuming there would be a next time out for Germany though was risky business in a tournament that has left predictions and plain old logic in its wake.
And so it began all over again - for Özil and logic - as Algeria tore into Löw’s men from the get-go. Some members of the Africans’ squad insisted that the scandal of 1982 would have no impact on this tie, yet they chased down their nemesis of Gijon with the look of men who had three decades of pent-up fury to get out of their system.
The early threats stemmed down Özil’s right side where the inexperienced Shkodran Mustafi had come in as part of a defensive reshuffle and was left all too isolated with Faouzi Ghoulam hounding him.
Ghoulam it was who delivered a wicked whipped cross that red-hot commodity Islam Slimani flew at and powered past Manuel Neuer. The opening salvo in a 1982 re-enactment? The linesman said no as he signalled offside. It was a wake-up call but Germany hit the snooze button.
As Algeria continued to pick off passes and counter with crisp control the contrast was stark. Özil switched wings with the all but absent Mario Goetze and finally found joy. Terrific work from Thomas Müller on 24 minutes fed him on the run and his delicate chip caused concern but Rais Mbolhi tipped over. At least he was making inroads. He was about the only one.
Löw responded at the break and brought Andre Schurrle in for Goetze. The Chelsea man shaped to be the biggest threat to Özil’s place but now the two were asked to restore order for the Mannschaft.
There was to be little order though. Not on a night like this and certainly not in a cup like this. It was to be Schurrle who eventually made the breakthrough in extra-time to take Löw, Ozil and the whole experiment forward. How far forward remains to be seen.
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