It was a bitter-sweet end to the Africa adventure at the on-going FIFA World Cup in Brazil last night, as the continents last remaining representative at the mundial – Algeria bowed owed, albeit in greatly impressive fashion, after a performance which no one apart from they themselves expected.
Playing against a mighty German team who are favorites to lift the trophy, bookmakers expected them to be stream-rolled but that was not to be the case, as the Fenec Foxes – like the Super Eagles of Nigeria had done to France hours before – stood toe to toe with their more illustrious European counterparts.
The Algerians even went further than the Nigerians, stretching their opponents to the limits by taking the game into extra time so it was no surprise when at the final whistle, there was no triumphalism to be seen. German players walked, dazed and relieved, back to the tunnel while exhausted Algerians fell to the turf. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic unsuccessfully fought back tears as he embraced his players. Little satisfaction in victory, no consolation in defeat.
Algeria flew out of the blocks in the opening 20 minutes, cutting through the German backline on a number of occasions and seeing an Islam Slimani goal disallowed for offside. Slimani converted Faouzi Ghoulam’s wonderful cross from the left with a diving header in the 17th minute, but the referee’s assistant correctly ruled that the Sporting Lisbon man had strayed offside, before Ghoulam flashed another effort narrowly off target as Algeria continued to dominate.
Germany gradually grew into the game towards the end of the first half, Muller heading wide and Ozil testing Rais M’Bolhi with a dipping effort.
Yet Algeria hit back in the 39th minute, Mehdi Mostefa thumping in a shot from 25 yards which deflected off Jerome Boateng and past the left-hand post with Neuer completely wrong-footed.
M’Bolhi made a superb double stop two minutes later, parrying Toni Kroos’ drive away and then springing to his feet to keep out Gotze’s rebound.
Germany enjoyed a more assured opening to the second period, Schurrle seeing an effort deflected just wide before Skhodran Mustafi, who replaced Mats Hummels in defence with Boateng switching to centre-back, headed straight at M’Bolhi from Kroos’ delivery.
Philipp Lahm went close in the 55th minute, his curling effort diverted wide by an acrobatic save from M’Bolhi.
As the game wore on the play became stretched and Slimani sent a rasping effort from distance straight into the arms of Neuer 15 minutes from time.
Germany responded strongly and Muller ought to have scored his fifth goal of the tournament shortly afterwards, but his powerful header was beaten away by M’Bolhi.
Muller had another clear chance moments later, stabbing the ball wide after a glorious touch to bring the ball under control, while Bastian Schweinsteiger was unable to seriously trouble M’Bolhi with a weak header from Lahm’s chipped pass.
Low’s side then struck early in the first extra period, Schurrle adjusting brilliantly to backheel Muller’s cross from the left into the net.
Algeria could have levelled through Mostefa, who snatched an effort wide from 10 yards after Germany failed to deal with a corner.
Ozil then made the game safe in the closing stages, lashing high into the net after Schurrle had been denied just in front of the goalline by Essaid Belkalem, although there was one final twist as Djabou converted a right-wing cross at the back post to net a deserved consolation for Algeria.
In the end, after 120 minutes, there were broken hearts and sweat-stained shirts hiding the heads of Algeria’s players. They were awesome.
Algeria didn’t deserve to go out of the World Cup in the second round after this staggering performance, yet they can look back with pride at their performances.
Damilola Orehin is a freelance creative writer with interesting opinions and analysis of sports, entertainment and social issues. He has written on several established print and online platforms and he showcases his deep-rooted passion for a wide variety of sports at tecmosports.blogspot.com.
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