by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30th 2014)
Germany defied historic precedent at the third attempt to finally to see off the challenge of Vahid Halihodžićʼs brave Algeria team, but they required extra time to do it. Joachim Löwʼs introduction of substitute André Schürrle proved effective. While others including Bayern Münchenʼs Thomas Müller failed to penetrate the Desert Foxesʼ defence.
The Germans found CSKA Sofiaʼs Raïs MʼBoli in top form and the Algerian repelling almost everything thrown at them. Müller failed to add to his tally apart from an assist that owed more to Schürrle than Müller. Schürrleʼs sublime back-heel 2 minutes into the first period of extra time broke the dead-lock.
Their second, which proved crucial came late. Arsenalʼs Mesut Özil, who had been largely disappointing, squared for Schürrle to shoot as the match approached its end. His effort beat MʼBoli, but was blocked on the line by Watfordʼs Essaï Belkalem. It rebounded to Özil. The Arsenal man lashed it back. Mʼboli could not keep it out.
Despite time running out Algeria refused to give up and finally found a way past Manuel Neuer. Bayern Münchenʼs final barrier had almost played more as Germanyʼs sweeper than keeper, but was finally beaten in the last minute of injury time.
Valenciaʼs Sofiane Feghouliʼs cross from the right found substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou – one of the few Africa based players in this World Cup – at the back post. He shot across Neuer to score, but it proved too little, too late. Time ran out on the Desert Foxes.
If Algeriaʼs final ball had been up to scratch the result would probably have been different. Feghouli squandered a golden opportunity with just under a quarter of an hour played. Mehdi Lacenʼs pass. He created the space for himself, but the angle was tight. He chose to shoot – wrong choice. found the midfielder on the right but he should have cut it back to the six yard box for El Arabi Soudani rather than shoot from tight angle.
Two minutes later Algeria scored, but the officials correctly disallowed it. Napoliʼs Faouzi Ghoulam had an excellent match causing difficulties for the Germans on the left. His cross was met with a diving header by Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani. It beat Neuer, but not the assistant refereeʼs offside flag.
Shortly after that Internazionaleʼs Saphir Taïder spread play to the left flank. Soudani put Ghoulam through on the left of the area, but he shot wide. Özilʼs defensive work was in tracking Ghoulam and challenging him was awful. It took over half an hour for Müller to get a real chance, slipping his marker Aissa Mandi, but his header went wide of MʼBoliʼs goal.
Bayern Münchenʼs departing midfielder Toni Kroos broke free to unleash a powerful shot that MʼBoli saved well, recovering quickly to superbly stop the rebound by Mario Götze. Ten minutes into the second half – Germany were much improved – a 25 yard effort by Philipp Lahm was tipped over by MʼBoli after good build up play by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Kroos.
MʼBoli denied another header by Müller too and Neuer swept efficiently outside his area when the long ball tactic employed by Algeria threatened. His performance summed up Algeria tonight – heroic, exceptional even, but ultimately not quite enough.
Germany will meet France in the quarter-final – another match with echoes of injustice from 1982. West Germany went all the way to the final then with cynical and shameful methods then – the fix in Gijón and goal-keeper Harald Schumacherʼs disgraceful attack on Patrick Battiston which knocked the defender unconscious. Battiston later slipped into a coma.
Disgracefully, Schumacher was never punished for what he did in Seville – not even a foul – and played a crucial role in the penalty shoot-out that followed it. And we complain about referees now.