Germany 2 Algeria 1. Germany will play France in the quarter-finals of the Brazil 2014 in Rio on Friday after two goals in extra-time saw them home against a spirited Algerian side appearing in their first World Cup knockout tie.
The three-times champions were given a severe examination by the unfancied North Africans who had a score to settle stretching back to the 1982 World Cup. In that tournament West Germany and Austria conspired to give the Germans the 1-0 win they needed to enable both countries to progress from the group stage – at the expense of Algeria, who were knocked out. It was one of the more shameful episodes in World Cup history and not something the Algerians have forgotten.
Thirty two years later and Germany did well to reach half-time with the game goalless. Islam Slimani had the ball in the back of the German net, only to be ruled offside, and Per Mertesacker experienced an uncomfortable evening up against the pace of the Algerians on the counter-attack. Frequently Germany's goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, had to race off his line to hoof the ball clear as his back four maintained a high-line in defence.
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The second half also failed to produce any goals, though the introduction of Andre Schurrle for Mario Gotze at half-time added more potency to the German attack and forced Algerian keeper Rais Mbolhi to pull off a string of fine saves.
After 90 minutes of entertaining deadlock it was Schurrle who finally broke Algeria's resistance three minutes into extra-time. The Chelsea forward somehow steered home Thomas Muller's cross from the left, even though it was behind him and he had to improvise a finish.
The exhausted Desert Foxes went in search of an equaliser, but the space left at the back enabled Arsenal's Mesut Ozil made it 2-0 a couple of minutes from the end. But Algeria refused to capitulate and the last word, fittingly, went to the North Africans whose courageous performance was rewarded with a goal from Abdelmoumene Djabou with seconds to spare. There was even time afterwards for one final attack, but the ball ended up in the hands of Neuer.
The victory means Germany will face France in the last eight, as Les Bleus overcame a lively Nigeria side 2-0 with goals from Paul Pogba and Joseph Yobo. The Germans know they'll have to improve between now and then but Per Mertesacker defended his side's lethargic display against Algeria. "Would you rather we played beautiful football but got knocked out?" retorted the Arsenal centre-half when asked about Germany's travails. "Do you think just Mickey Mouse teams are in the last 16? All that matters is we're in the quarter-finals."
Germany coach Joachim Low was more reasoned in his response to criticism of the way his side had played, admitting: "We lost too many balls. We made lots of passing mistakes and that invited them to hit us on the counter-attack. We were susceptible on long balls and it was good that Manuel [Neuer] kept coming off his line."
Nonetheless, Low was pleased that his side came through such a rigorous test intact, praising his players for achieving "a victory of our will and strength of character".
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