Germany vs Algeria match report World Cup 2014: Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil find breakthrough in extra-time

Germany 2 Algeria 1 (aet)

Estadio Beira-Rio

This is not a tournament of the invincibles. All the challengers have their weaknesses, none looks imperious and Germany underlined that fact with a performance which was treacherously flawed last night.

Though they had 21 shots on goal in 90 minutes, it was no rearguard mission from an Algerian side who shredded the belief that after 24 years of waiting the German team’s time is here. Only as this round of 16  game inched into the second minute of extra time could Germany finally break through. A low, deflected cross from Thomas Müller reached Chelsea’s André Schürrle, who dragged the ball from behind him to score with his left foot. He was a worthy saviour for his nation: their prime threat after arriving from the bench. Mesut Özil put the result beyond doubt a minute from the end, even though Abdelmoumene Djabou replied for Algeria at the death.

Joachim Löw’s side were not intent on making themselves too comfortable. Algeria had already enjoyed acclimatising here in Porto Alegro in the group stage win over South Korea and, besides, the German nation has never forgotten the legend of Gijon, Spain, June 16, 1982. Before the game against Algeria that day, Paul Breitner had declared: “The first seven goals we will dedicate to our wives. The eighth to our dogs.” Algeria won 2-1.

Löw had not anticipated the quality of football that initially made that look perfectly achievable again.

There was certainly a little of the rough-house treatment that had prompted German captain Philipp Lahm’s claim that the North Africans would rather foul than concede. But far more of the good football was Algerian when the teams went to work. Germany’s high defensive line made them look brittle, vulnerable and how the Algerians capitalised, with their counter-attacking intent. Their Sporting Lisbon striker El Arabi Soudani was offside when he leapt to land a thumping header into the net from Faouzi Ghoulam’s exquisite cross but it was a metaphor for the team’s pace, precision and general menace.

 

It felt like a Spanish reincarnation at times: the German strategy resembling the Bayern Munich way of playing that Pep Guardiola has inculcated at the Allianz Arena. The flaws of that counter-attacking push which let Real Madrid run amok in Bavaria in April are well known in Germany.

 

But Löw did not seem short on optimism – waving his players forward to maintain that high line. It was a strategy built on holding the ball, something the Germans did not accomplish enough in their nervy beginnings. Lahm struggled to hold the green counter-attacking tide and the Algerians penetrated several times in a first half which twice brought Manuel Neuer, a de facto centre-half, hurtling out of his goal. He tidied up danger created first by Shkodran Mustafi, then Per Mertesacker.

The Germans were preserved by a wildness in the Algerian finishing – the threatening Napoli full-back Ghoulam, displaying his long throw missiles, blasted wide from an acute angle inside the box when Soudani was lurking with menace on the far post. But the world’s 22nd-ranked nation took heart and kept flooding forward.

 

There was a sense of the natural order being resumed as the first half came towards a conclusion. It required the best in Algeria goalkeeper Raïs Mbolhi to palm away Toni Kroos’s low shot.

Löw tried to inject some fire, sending on Schürrle for Götze, and there was an immediate impact when he burst on to Müller’s deft lay-off and hammered a drive which spun a few feet wide from the heel of a defender. Mustafi’s header – straight at Mbolhi – from the resulting corner, and a drilled Lahm shot, touched over by the keeper, after some clever one-touch play with Kroos and Schweinsteiger gave a sense of a team roused into something better.

But the ragged German hold on possession kept the night perpetually in the balance. The Algerians were not encamped in their own quarters, even though they began to run fast out of steam.

 

The arrival of Sami Khedira for Mustafi, carried off after a hamstring pull, led to the reshuffle which took Lahm back to his original full-back berth and equipped the Germans with the two semi-fit men on whom their destiny seems contingent. But the lofted diagonal ball over the German midfield remained a treacherous weapon, forcing Neuer out to clear up again as the game entered its last 20 minutes of normal time.

Soudani burst away free on another mission but his cross was poor and Jérôme Boateng mercifully lumped it to safety but the chants of “Algérie” revealed a nation who still felt they were on to something.

Then Germany’s desperation to settle this took them forward again. A Khedira cross from the right was met with a Müller header which was instinctively clawed out by Mbolhi. It fell to Schürrle, whose header Essaïd Belkalen put his thigh in the way of, on the goal-line. Müller took the ball around the same defender within two minutes to tee up a shot with his right instep, a yard wide.

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