Pre-tournament favorites Germany take on Algeria today in the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Porto Alegre. There’s history here thanks to then West Germany’s ploy with Austria to conspire at the 1982 World Cup for a 1-0 draw that would send both countries through and knock out Algeria in the process. Algeria is one of the youngest teams in the 2014 tournament and none of its 23 players were even born by the time that match was played. For some perspective, captain Madjid Bougherra, Algeria’s oldest player, was born in October of 1982. Even so, these players should know the history of that game all too well.
Germany: The real tournament begins now for Germany, seeking its first trophy since the 1996 European Championship. By now everyone knows what to expect from Germany — a dominant possession game. Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm and defender Per Mertesacker are in the Top 10 of passes completed at the World Cup. For all its possession, Germany is 23rd in shots taken, with just 37 (24 on target). Obviously it helps that Thomas Müller has four goals on seven shots. Eventually, against better opposition, Germany is going to have to make the most of its time with the ball or face being stung on the counterattack or against the run of play as Ghana did in a 2-2 draw.
The team is also trying to figure out the best way to utilize either Bastian Schweinsteiger or Sami Khedira next to Lahm in the midfield. (Schweinsteiger starts today.) There is also talk one might be sacrificed down the road to may way for Miroslav Klose at the top of the attack, although the 36-year-old begins the Algeria match on the bench.
Algeria took the least amount of shots other than Iran in the Group Stage, yet still managed six goals — one fewer than Germany. In other words if Germany doesn’t do anything productive with its 100s of passes it could find itself chasing the game.
Algeria: Much like Costa Rica, Algeria were supposed to be an afterthought — a team to fill out the numbers. On the surface its 1-1-1 mark in Group H is nothing special. Yes, Belgium went 3-0-0 in the Group, but Algeria might have been more impressive in spurts, despite conceding two late goals to Belgium in each team’s tournament opener.
Vahid Halilhodžić built a very technically sound team. Although Algeria represents Africa, the core of the current squad was reared in France. Faouzi Ghoulam, Hassan Yebda, Sofiane Feghouli, Yacine Brahimi, Carl Medjani, Nabil Bentaleb, Saphir Taïder and keeper Raïs M’Bolhi all represented France at the youth level. When you throw in the motivating factor of the 1982 result, this is a much trickier game for Germany than it might look like at first glance. Granted, Algeria did allow goals in each of its three games so far meaning Germany will have chances, but will any of its players not named Müller be ready to take them?
Algeria made five changes for this game, shifting into a 4-5-1 formation, leaving attack-minded players like Yacine Brahimi on the bench.
Outlook: What still to make of Germany? The 4-0 demolition of 10-man Portugal is what Jogi Low’s team can do at its best. At its worst it’s very susceptible on the counter attack or vs. players with pace as witnessed vs. Ghana. Against the United States, Germany was okay but lacked bite in the box — thankfully for Jurgen Klinsmann & Co. Algeria is going to play with absolutely nothing to lose from the opening whistle, inspired by how this tournament has played out so far. If Germany doesn’t put this one away early it’s going to get very nervy with players like Feghouli waiting to pounce on that one errant pass in the string of hundreds. Klose is one goal away from breaking Ronaldo’s all-time World Cup scoring record, Germany will need him at some point today record or not. … Germany 2, Algeria 1