Fantastic first half of Algeria could not defeat
Algeria should be proud of memorable World Cup run. A creative Algeria surprised but could not defeat Germany
It was 2-1 for Algeria in 1982 in one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. It was 2-1 for Germany 32 years later on a cool and drizzly Monday night.
But this rematch, yet another terrific game in a Cup runneth over with them, shared a few commonalities with that long-ago game in Gijón, Spain.
Once again, the Germans looked surprised by what the underdog Algerians could do to counter and create against their supposedly superior skills and striking power. Once again, the crowd in a World Cup stadium on neutral ground chanted, “Al-ger-ie! Al-ger-ie!” in appreciation of the Desert Foxes’ heart and effort.
But in the end, the better team did win even if this particular group of Germans, who will face France in the quarterfinals, have certainly played much better as a team and, above all, converted their goal-scoring chances much better as a team.
Germany's Mesut Ozil celebrated after scoring Germany's second goal, which was ultimately the game-winner.Match Recap: World Cup 2014: Germany Defeats Algeria, 2-1, in Extra timeJUNE 29, 2014
Nigeria lost to France, 2-0, on Monday in the Round of 16. The team was one of three from Africa to protest to their soccer federation over finances, refusing to practice before being paid in cash.
Salah Assad, standing at left, and Algeria defeated Chile in 1982 but missed the second round when West Germany and Austria played a close match.
The Algerians — brimming with bright ideas, flair and energy — often got the better of the first half and looked, with their long balls and one-touch passing, as if they knew very well where to attack the holes worth exploiting. In one three-minute stretch in the early going, they had three excellent chances from close range and a goal called back on a correct offside ruling.
But German Coach Joachim Löw, already without the injured midfielder Lukas Podolski and the key central defender Mats Hummels, reshuffled at the half, adding André Schürrle to the attacking lineup in place of Mario Götze. The Germans and their free electron of a forward, Thomas Müller, soon grabbed control but kept fumbling the keys to the go-ahead goal and banging up against the guts and elastic brilliance of Raïs M’Bolhi, Algeria’s goalkeeper.
“It was a victory achieved by our strength of will,” Löw said to the German network ZDF. “But the first half was bad.”
M’Bolhi, the Paris-born son of a Congolese father and an Algerian mother, does not play in any of Europe’s top-tier, big-money professional leagues. Instead, he earns his year-round living in Bulgaria’s first division for CSKA Sofia. But he and Germany’s ultra-aggressive goalkeeper turned sweeper Manuel Neuer, the backbone of Bayern Munich, were very much on equal terms.
“Raïs deserves to be with a big European club,” said Madjid Bougherra, the veteran Algerian defender.
If it was not Neuer roaming far off his line far outside the penalty area to snuff out a developing Algerian threat, it was M’Bolhi coming up with fast-twitch brilliance to bat away yet another German header or firmly struck shot.
After 90 minutes of goal-less but hardly soulless soccer, extra time would be required to separate them. And even when the Germans finally did score, it looked more like good fortune than true sleight of foot when Müller put in a cross from the left wing that went through an Algerian defender’s legs. Schürrle, closely marked, ran on to meet it and then put it past M’Bolhi with a back-heel flick in the 92d minute.
Whatever the pure intent, it was a flashy goal and seemed a fair reward for all the German pressure. It was also the latest example of a late arrival making a difference in this World Cup. A record 27 goals have been scored by substitutes.
But the Algerians kept pushing and probing. And though Mesut Özil added a second goal for Germany in the 120th minute, the Algerians came right back, with Sofiane Feghouli finding space on the right and firing a long ball over the German central defense that Abdelmoumene Djabou (yet another goal-scoring substitute) volleyed past Neuer.
That made it 2-1: the same score as in 1982, when they were in the same first-round group. The Germans took that match lightly and were punished by the little-known Algerians’ creative energy, but there would be no second round for Algeria as West Germany and Austria colluded in the final game of the group, in which neither team made any convincing attempt to score in the final 80 minutes after an early German goal. A larger margin of German victory or a tie or Austrian victory would have allowed Algeria to advance.
Vahid Halilhodzic, the Bosnian coach for Algeria, also had a point to prove. He was a member of the Yugoslavian World Cup team in 1982 and had expected, as a leading striker of the time, to play a major role. Instead, he was relegated to substitute status: a slight that still rankles. As a coach, he guided Ivory Coast as it qualified for the last World Cup in 2010, only to be dismissed before the tournament.
But this young Algerian team, none of whose players were born when Algeria beat Germany in 1982, did him proud. And as they took a break before extra time, the emotive Halilhodzic moved rapidly from weary young man to weary young man, commanding eye contact and gesticulating wildly how he wanted them to position themselves and to play.
But all that desire, all that pent-up ambition was not quite enough to keep Germany from another World Cup quarterfinal and a 16th straight appearance in the final eight as West Germany or United Germany on Friday.
By then, the Algerians will be back home, which for many is France, but the chants of “Al-ger-ie, Al-ger-ie” will stay with them.
“Even though we’re a young team, we may never live another World Cup or another night like this,” Mandi said. “But it was amazing, even in defeat.”
Germany 2-1 Algeria Watch Hightlights
World Cup 2014