Germany vs. Algeria: Low's Suspect Defence Saved by Magnificent Manuel Neuer

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Germany vs. Algeria: Low's Suspect Defence Saved by Magnificent Manuel Neuer
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Germany advanced to the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals on Monday night by beating Algeria, 2-1, after extra time.

Andre Schurrle, substituted on at half-time for Mario Goetze, managed to back-heel a low Thomas Mueller cross into the box before Mesut Ozil reluctantly smashed home a second.

Abdelmoumene Djabou retaliated with a consolation goal seconds later, but the Desert Foxes ran out of time to find an equaliser.

 

Formations and XIs

@stighefootball

Germany played a 4-3-3 with four centre-backs across the back line again. Shkodran Mustafi played on the right and Jerome Boateng replaced Mats Hummels in the middle.

Algeria converted back into the same 4-3-3 they used against Belgium, with five changes from their last XI against Russia. Yacine Brahimi was the biggest name dropped.

 

Identical Approach

The opening seven minutes of this game were alarmingly similar to those of Germany 1-0 USA, with Die Mannschaft taking the same attacking approach.

Slow, heavy possession allowed Joachim Low's full-backs to creep forward, and they built pressure through the central and left channels before firing quick passes out to the right for Mustafi.

Three times they hit Mustafi, just like Boateng against the USA, and three times he fired in low crosses for Thomas Mueller to contend running across the near post.

The first pass into him, a peach from Philipp Lahm, was incorrectly ruled offside.

 

Rapier-Like

Algeria settled back into the 4-3-3 formation that stifled Belgium for so long, keeping eight behind the ball and behind the German midfield line at all times.

When they snatched the ball from their ponderous opponents, they fired it forward at pace and constructed rapier-like attacks from just two or three passes.

Faouzi Ghoulam's long passing from left-back and surges forward became a weapon here, as did El Arabi Soudani's strong running at left-wing, Saphir Taider's energy from the centre and Islam Slimani's power between the centre-backs.

Early balls, early crosses and hard running saw Algeria craft three clear-cut chances on goal in the first half alone, and only one thing was stopping them from taking the lead: the formidable Manuel Neuer.

The German 'keeper, so often used as a sweeper, mopped up the large majority of balls in behind the defence. His starting position was 18 yards from goal and his proactive first step meant a lack of pace at the back for Die Mannschaft wasn't an issue.

 

Mustafi Off

After 70 minutes, an injury to Mustafi meant a forced reshuffle, giving Low the chance to place Lahm back at right-back and push Sami Khedira into central midfield.

Schurrle had also come on at half-time to replace Goetze, and the system looked a lot more comfortable now that players were playing in their correct positions.

Schurrle provided thrust from the left and a direct ball over the top, Khedira drove from the middle (with Toni Kroos nominally the holding player) and Lahm showed some more assertive purpose moving to forward and right-back.

For the last 10 minutes of normal time and the entire 30 of extra time, Germany were the better side. They began overloading areas of the pitch and utilising great movement to flummox Algeria's defensive line.

Schurrle's goal, a flicked effort after swapping positions with Mueller on the fly, was indicative of this.

 

Conclusion

It's over for Algeria, but they played some fantastic football and stood good value for the knockout stages. Vahid Halilhodzic, the coach, will leave his post and shed a few tears at the final whistle.

They're the highest-ranked African nation in the competition and it showed, with many of their performers—including Ghoulam, Nabil Bentaleb, Brahimi and more—playing excellent football.

For Germany, it's a case of going back to the drawing board ahead of their tussle with France—nothing les Bleus saw on Monday will worry them.

They need to start quicker or they'll be eaten alive. Their performance from the onset of the second half was, in all actuality, rather good.

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