After being held at bay for more than 90 minutes by a brilliant performance from Algeria, Andre Schürrle came to Germany’s rescue with a goal right at the start of extra time to help send his side into the World Cup quarterfinals.
Just two minutes into an added 30, Schürrle produced a stylish finish to turn Thomas Müller’s cross toward goal and finally beat Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi. Having got the breakthrough, a goal in the final minute from Mesut Özil appeared to make the win secure, but Germany's almighty fright was prolonged just a little longer by a late, late strike from substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou.
Algeria, playing in the second round of the World Cup for the first time looked determined to repeat their only previous World Cup meeting with Germany, when the African side produced one of the competition’s great shocks with a 2-1 win in 1982. They had ample motivation, too, after an infamous mutually beneficial result between the then West Germany and Austria had sent Algeria out later in the competition. Now, as then, Germany went through, but Algeria leave with huge credit.
Not only were Algeria supremely disciplined without the ball, but they posed a shaky Germany defense real problems. Their issues at the back coupled with a lack of tempo in their passing mean that coach Joachim Löw has much to mull over ahead of a quarterfinal with France on Friday. On this day, they advanced but looked some way short of potential champions.
While Germany, as expected dominated possession from the off, Algeria’s organization behind the ball and compact shape provided much early frustration. Meanwhile, Germany’s attacking intent -- pushing both full-backs forward and leaving center-backs Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng isolated but high up the pitch -- left them vulnerable. And Algeria were superb early on at targeting the weak spot for Germany.
A quick ball forward to impressive lone striker Islam Slimani had Manuel Neuer rushing out of his box and blocking a shot from the angle. It was to be the first of several occasions that Germany's goalkeeper was required to play proactive sweeper in order to get his defense out of trouble. There were also opportunities down the sides, where Neuer couldn't help out. The star of this Algeria side Sofiane Feghouli did brilliantly to cut past Boateng toward the byline down the right of the box, but then lost his composure with two men waiting in the middle. On the other side, left-back Faouzi Ghoulam similarly failed to find the frame of the goal or a teammate when getting in behind.
Germany were no better in possession than they were at defending. Their passing lacked both zip and precision. It wasn’t until late in the half that they began to get things going when increasing the tempo, if not the accuracy, of their exchanges. Algeria’s goalkeeper M’Bolhi was living something of a charmed life. On more than once occasion he spilled shots from distance, with one of those instances requiring him to recover well from Toni Kroos’s effort and get up to block the follow up attempt from Mario Götze.
German momentum initially continued after the interval, helped by Löw’s decision to bring on Schürrle for Götze. With the threat of the substitute’s pace in behind, Algeria dropped increasingly deep. Yet with the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer Miroslav Klose still sat on the bench, Germany were unable to take advantage of a series of crosses.
Having received another couple of scares when Algeria rediscovered some counter-attacking thrust, Germany came on strong in the final 15 minutes. The enforced exit of Shkodran Mustafi to injury and introduction of Sami Khedira, leading to Philipp Lahm reverting to right-back, aided the German cause significantly and will surely provoke much discussion about how the team should line up against France. Still somehow the breakthrough continued to evade Germany. Müller, in contrast to the predatory finishing that has garnered him four goals so far in this World Cup, was the biggest culprit as a host of chances went begging. First, he headed straight into the arms of M’Bohli with the goal at his mercy from the center of the box, and then, having done brilliantly to take down a long ball and manufacture a clear sight at goal, he poked a shot wide of the post. Bastian Schweinsteiger also failed to take advantage of two headed chances as Algeria held on for extra time.
But Les Fennecs had finally reached their limit. Incredibly, having failed to get through for more than 90 minutes of regulation time, it took less than two minutes of extra time for the opening goal to arrive for Germany. Müller went from villain to creator, with his tireless movement getting him down the left side of the box, before driving a ball across the edge of the six-yard box. It went behind Schürrle, but the Chelsea forward improvised brilliantly to flick it into the net.
Even when Özil fired in late on after Algeria’s defense went missing, Vahid Halilhodžić's side continued fighting to the end through Djabou’s goal. Germany survived but once again learnt that Algeria were not to be taken lightly.