Germany vs. Algeria: 6 Things We Learned
Germany continued to ride their luck in the World Cup on Monday night with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Algeria after 120 minutes of even end-to-end football.
Although the European powerhouse were expected to roll over their African opponents, Vahid Halilhodzic's side defied all the odds—in the very spirit of this competition—with a performance that any team or nation would have been proud of. Joachim Low will once again turn back towards the drawing board to decipher just what continues to elude his side of superstars after similarly poor performances against Ghana and the United States.
But at the end of the day, it was Germany who came out on top, through a fortunate finish from Andre Schurrle in the 92nd minute and a-well finished breakaway move from Arsenal star Mesut Ozil. Algeria had threatened throughout the match, but the overall class of Germany's brightest stars offered just enough to get them over the finish line on the day.
France now offer the next headache on the horizon for most Germany fans, with their clash on Friday expected to be another tight affair for what many considered one of the favourites for the competition.
Here's what we learned from Monday's clash between Germany and Algeria.
Germany Struggle Against African Opponents...Again
There will be little doubt that Algeria coach Halilhodzic would have spent plenty of time analyzing Germany's previous display against Ghana and preparing his side to attack the European side in a similar fashion.
With a high defensive line, a flooded midfield and a high level of pressure across the pitch, Algeria caused all sorts of problems that we have seen before when this team come up against an African side.
Most will remember Germany's horrid time against the Black Stars in their second match of Group G, but only a few fans will recount their side's similar problem against Cameroon in a pre-tournament friendly just weeks before the start of the competition.
Perhaps its a willingness to attack in packs and maintain a higher standard of pace throughout the game—or just a mental incapacity—but there's absolutely no doubting it: Germany continue to struggle against African sides.
Mats Hummels Was Badly Missed
Germany's defence isn't great. Algeria's last-minute consolation goal was no more than a momentary lapse of concentration, but it did mean that the World Cup heavyweights have now gone four matches in this competition with just two clean sheets.
However, what Die Mannschaft truly lacked today was central defender Mats Hummels commanding the back line. Confirmed out of the game just hours before kick-off with a bad case of flu, the Dortmund defender was sorely missed as Per Merstesacker and Jerome Boateng did their best to keep a shaky defensive line from crumbling altogether in this knockout tie.
With no more than an onrushing goalkeeper to stop a number of Algeria's darting through balls over Germany's back line, Low will fear what a better side like France can do if his team are without their commanding defender for one more game.
Germany's Full-Backs Fail Again
In an incredibly predictable manner, Germany once again found their defence at the mercy of their opponent's strike force. Full-backs Shkodran Mustafi and Benedikt Howedes, in particular, found themselves picked out and bullied through the match.
Low has received plenty of of criticism throughout the competition for his use of central defenders in the wide positions ever since Howedes started on the left-hand side of the back-line against Portugal. There the defender has found great difficulty against opponents big and small, from Portugal, Ghana, USA and now Algeria.
What made matters worse was the absence of Dortmund defender Hummels, which forced Low to move Boateng inside and start Mustafi—another central defender who has left plenty to be desired in his minor appearances in the competition.
Philipp Lahm was eventually pulled back from midfield to right-back when Sampdoria defender Mustafi picked up an injury in the 70th minute, allowing order to finally take over.
Yet at that point in the game, many feared the manager's stubbornness in picking defenders had outlasted any hope of qualifying for the next round. Germany scraped through against Algeria—but not without some serious question marks over its full-backs.
Manuel Neuer Proves His Worth as World's Best
One of Germany's few outstanding performances tonight came from towering goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
The Bayern giant was again on hand to ensure his side ultimate success with a game plan that made him part solid goalkeeper and part onrushing sweeper.
The shot-stopper has long been considered one of the sport's great modern goalkeepers, and he once again proved that with a comprehensive performance that showed just how pivotal the position is to the spine of any side.
With a cool head, a straight face and an all-encompassing armspan, Neuer battered away Algerian assault after assault. Although he will ultimately be upset at conceding a goal at the very end of the match, his side and coach will waste little time showing their appreciation for his efforts.
Germany may not have looked like champions on Monday night, but Neuer certainly looked like a world-beater.
Mesut Ozil Dissapoints Again
Although it was the Arsenal playmaker who ultimately grabbed the last laugh with Germany's second extra-time goal, Ozil was once again far from his usual best for Germany on Monday night.
Although the attacking midfielder looked fit and was continuously tracking back in support of left-back Benedikt Howedes, his touch was often heavy and his final pass inaccurate. And on several occasions, he frustratingly found himself running down the wing and into a lane of Algerian defenders.
Although such criticism will come as little surprise to many Arsenal fans, those supporting Germany this summer will continue questioning the player's role in the first team following four poor games at this competition and at least a year of dismissive performances in international qualifiers.
With players like Andre Schurrle, Christoph Kramer and Lukas Podolski all fighting for starting positions in the side, coach Low will continue to receive little support in standing by this out-of-form star. Germany are blessed with a whole squad of attacking talent that may well be better suited than Ozil at this moment in time.
Thomas Mueller Saves the Day...Again
If Germany have accomplished one feat of consistency in this World Cup, it is the simple truth that Thomas Mueller always comes through for his national side when it is asked of him.
It may have taken 92 minutes against an incredibly determined Algeria side, but the Bayern forward finally found his form with a darting run and pass to set up his teammate Schurrle for what would become the defining goal of the game.
Mueller had looked like one of Germany's few bright lights throughout the match—with six shots and more dribbles than any other player for Die Mannschaft on the night, according to Whoscored.com—and has now contributed in one way or another to six of his side's eight goals in the tournament.
Mueller has been Germany's best player this summer by quite some distance.