In one of the more unpredictable World Cups for a while, it was good old fashioned European domination on Day 19. Both France and Germany won, and they'll play each other in the quarterfinals.
Monday's action failed to match the drama of the day before, but when you've got one match that features two goals in the final six minutes and a 91st-minute equalizer, you pretty much concede that one's gonna be an outlier.
Still, Day 19 was a continuation of what's been a great tournament so far.
Only two more spots in the quarterfinals remain up for grabs, with the round wrapping up on Tuesday. Argentina takes on Switzerland, and Belgium will try to stave off the United States.
Below are the scores and remaining fixtures from the round of 16.
|June 28||Brazil||1-1 (3-2 on pen.)||Chile|
|June 29||Costa Rica||1-1 (5-3 on pen.)||Greece|
|June 30||Germany||2-1 (aet)||Algeria|
|Date||Time||Group Winner||Group Runner-Up|
|July 1||12 p.m. ET; 5 p.m. BST||Argentina (F)||Switzerland (E)|
|July 1||4 p.m. ET; 9 p.m. BST||Belgium (H)||United States (G)|
Day 19 Recap
Vincent Enyeama stonewalled Ligue 1 last year, so it's only appropriate that he stonewalled the French national team, too. The Lille goalkeeper did his best to try and push Nigeria through to the quarterfinals, but he had little support, especially in attack.
The Super Eagles lost, 2-0, to France. The final score doesn't reveal just how one-sided this match was. Les Bleus had 13 shots, five of which were on target, compared to nine and two, respectively, for Nigeria. The match could've easily been 4-0 or 5-0 had it not been for Enyeama.
But in a cruel twist of irony, he was culpable for France's first goal. Mathieu Valbuena delivered in a corner from the left, which Enyeama failed to clear and instead knocked into the path of Paul Pogba, who had the goalmouth gaping and finished with a header.
Football writers Graham Ruthven and Robin Bairner both noted that dealing with crosses is Enyeama's biggest problem:
Victor Enyeama an excellent shot-stopper, but oh boy - what a hot mess with crosses into the box.— Graham Ruthven (@grahamruthven) June 30, 2014
After the loss, the 31-year-old revealed to Nigerian football journalist Colin Udoh that he's contemplating international retirement:
Enyeama tells me he is considering his international future. 'This could be my last game.' #ShineOnNigeria— Colin Udoh (@ColinUdoh) June 30, 2014
If Enyeama does in fact walk away, he'll do so having set the record for most saves by a Nigerian goalkeeper at the World Cup, per OptaJose:
22 - Vincent Enyeama made more saves at 2014 WC than any other #NGA goalkeeper in a single World Cup edition. Protagonist.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 30, 2014
France continue to look like one of the best teams at the World Cup. The midfield trio of Blaise Matuidi, Yohan Cabaye and Pogba controlled the game. Karim Benzema was unlucky not to have scored in the second half. Valbuena was also a consistent threat down the right and from set pieces.
Les Bleus have been a feast-or-famine team for the last 16 years. They follow up a bad tournament with a great tournament and vice versa. This year looks very much like it will be a great tournament.
As much fun as France have been to watch by themselves, a matchup with Algeria would've been tasty. The Algerian influence on the French national team continues to this day, so seeing the two countries face off would've added that extra bit of drama.
But instead, we're gonna get France vs. Germany, which isn't all that bad. Let's just hope the World War II analogies are kept to a minimum:
Germany vs. France. A matchup with no historical precedent whatsoever, and no references to be made in any direction.— TEDDY GOOALSEVELT (@edsbs) June 30, 2014
The Germans really had a tough time against Algeria. You can credit Algerian goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi for most of that. It's not often that a keeper who conceded two goals could be a man of the match, but the argument could be made that M'Bolhi was exactly that on Monday night. He made save after save, until eventually it was just too much.
Writing for Bleacher Report, German football journalist Clark Whitney picked out bigger reasons for Germany's troubles: A lack of athleticism and match fitness.
Top speed only tells part of the story, but there are no statistics that describe acceleration or agility. And Germany lacked in both areas. Although their strength allows Howedes and Mustafi to function well in central defense, the two were torn apart on the wings by the fleet-footed Faouzi Ghoulam and Sofiane Feghouli. And after escaping Howedes, the latter managed to slalom dribble past Boateng as well for an early chance.
As much as Germany lacked in pace, they also lacked in physical strength in midfield. Lahm is listed by ESPN at just 5'6" inches and 141 pounds while Kroos, although 6'0" and 172 pounds, is nowhere near the physical presence that Sami Khedira or even Schweinsteiger is.
Far too often, Algerian attackers were getting in behind the German defense. It was happening so often that Manuel Neuer looked more like a centre-back than a goalkeeper:
Eurosport's Alex Chick joked that he might be a better midfielder than Steven Gerrard:
Increasingly certain that Manuel Neuer is a better central midfielder than Steven Gerrard.— Alex Chick (@alex_eurosport) June 30, 2014
Even the best midfield in the world can't cover up a suspect defense.
The most important development from this match may have been the injury to Shkodran Mustafi. That forced Joachim Low's hand, and he had to drop Philipp Lahm to right-back and put Sami Khedira in midfield.
Lahm has become a great defensive midfielder, but he might be of more service to Germany playing on the right and covering what has been one of their biggest weaknesses so far.
Against France, the Germans will need all of the defensive help they can get.