Germany made it to the quarter finals of a world cup yet again, this time managing to crawl past the finishing line against Algeria, who gave a very appreciable account of themselves. Goals from Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil saw the Germans through in extra time before Slimani got a consolation for the Africans in a close fought 2-1 defeat.

Algeria started off as the better team, looking the hungrier side and with a clear game plan to attack the slow backline of Jogi Low’s side. The early pressure didn’t pay any dividends as most of the Algerian efforts were thwarted by the sweeping efforts of Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who was quick off his mark every single time Algeria threatened to go past the defensive lines. On the attacking front Germany struggled to string a sequence of passes initially but slowly found a rhythm as the first half concluded.

The second half followed the first half pattern except for the fact that there was more cohesion about Germany’s play. The movement was sharper and quicker and if not for M’Bolhi’s brilliant shot stopping the match would probably not have gone to extra time in the first place.

Germany started with 4 centre backs in their defence as they did through out the group stages. The midfield and defence lacked sufficient mobility and relied on a heavy possession philosophy. Algerian manager Halidhodzic thus set up his team so as to not only press the German midfield and hurry them on the ball thus causing turnovers but also to run at the defence with pace. Ghoulam playing at left back was key in this regard, launching near perfect long balls for Slimani and Feghouli to run onto. Even Halliche contributed, threading balls through to Soudani who ran behind Mustafi at every instance and the left proved to be a profitable area for the African nation. Up front Slimani was slightly isolated and hence dropped deeper to linkup with Feghouli. Slimani even found the net with a header but it was ruled our for offside, marginally yet correctly.

The midfield trio of Lacen, Mostefa and Taider did an excellent job in crowding the centre of the park and not allowing the Germans time to settle on the ball. This resulted in Ozil, Gotze and Muller all drifting wide in order to hunt spaces.

Germany’s tactics and the one saving grace: Neuer

Germany were playing a high line against a quick and pacy side and it seemed suicidal right from the start. Algeria had clearly identified how high the Germans were playing and with no quick centre backs to play a sweeping/recovering role, Germany had Manuel Neuer to thank for playing almost a pseudo centre/back sweeper making 5 clearances all by himself, by spotting the danger early and being quick off his line.

In attack the Germans stuck to a basic pass till space opens tactic and it was more than obvious that there was a page taken off Guardiola’s book. Lahm in midfield was a hit at Bayern but in the Germany midfield he looked like a fish out of water. Rich Jolly an ESPN journalist, had this to say

ai???When Maldini was the best full back in the world, no one picked him in the centre of midfield,ai???

Later on Mustafi went off injured to be replaced by Khedira and Lahm took on the right back spot but the deficiencies in midfield were particularly visible with Kroos playing deepest and nobody in midfield protecting the gaps in defence during transition. It was no surprise that Algeria countered with great gung-ho.

Substitutions

Andre Schurrle was brought on at half time for the pedestrian Mario Gotze who cut a forlorn figure out wide. The Chelsea man’s introduction provided the Algerian defence with something to ponder upon. More pace and movement behind the backline meant the Algerians started Ai??to defend deep and more confusion within the box. When Khedira came on for the injured Mustafi, the midfield which looked static all game started to move much better in attack, with Khedira providing the cross for Muller’s brilliant header too.

The Germans developed sufficient momentum towards the end of full time and came close to getting the winner only for M’Bohli to thwart everything thrown at him. As the Algerians grew tired and with Halliche’s injury following, the Germans took advantage and put the game to bed with goals from Schurrle and Ozil.

Germany came into the tournament as one of the favourites but their performances since the Portugal game haven’t been the best. To be fair to them every team that has gone through has looked suspect and Jogi Low would have his task cut out before the quarters especially with injuries to key players. The target is obviously to go all the way to lift the trophy on July 13, but before that they face Didier Deschamps’ France. Should be a cracker.

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