Three-time World Cup champions Germany hope to progress to their sixteenth straight (!!!) World Cup quarterfinal. Standing in their way in this Round of 16 match are the Desert Foxes of Algeria, who played bravely, powerfully, and skillfully to deservedly qualify from a tough Group H. Interestingly enough, Algeria have beaten the Germans every time they’ve played each other. That’s only twice. Still, these two national teams happen to have a World Cup history that’s deeper – and darker – than the statistics reveal.
What’s At Stake
For the Algerians, what’s at stake is that perfect 2-0-0 record against Germany. And a first-ever trip to the World Cup quarterfinals. Oh, and there’s the small matter of the Shame of Gijon at Spain 1982, the “non-aggression pact” between Germany and Austria which saw the European neighbors conspire to produce a 1-0 German victory, securing progression for both and sending Algeria packing. “We wanted to progress, not play football,” said the German coach that day. Algeria will be desperate to do both tonight.
The winners play France next week. Algeria and France have close ties; in fact, seventeen of the Algerian players were born in France. Germany and France have their own history of rivalry, of course, but – being serious for a moment – I’d like to remind my readers that there’s no real place in soccer for the sort of nastiness that broke out on Twitter during Thursday’s USA vs. Germany match.
Philipp Lahm continues to be the focal point for criticism of Germany, but it’s not necessarily fair. True, the versatile former fullback didn’t start his career as a central midfielder, but he was excellent in that role all season for Bayern Munich, and he looks comfortable at the heart of Germany’s 4-3-3. Captain Philipp completed 109 of 115 attempted passes against the United States, including 21 of 24 in the attacking third of the field. He’ll keep his spot today, with Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger farther forward, completing the midfield “3.”
Algeria are a 4-2-3-1, but there is every possibility that shape will be bent into 4-5-1 today by intense German pressure. That will make the job of lone striker Islam Slimani (pictured above) very difficult, as he’ll spend much of this match battling for high balls against the physical German centerbacks Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng. If help comes, it will probably be in the form of the industrious Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli.
Germany do have one big issue: Mertesacker and Boateng are powerful in the air and should help nullify the Algerian threat from set pieces, but they’re not terribly mobile – especially not the lumbering Arsenal man Mertesacker, who moves as nimbly as his name suggests. Germany’s capable and confident goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will be called upon to make one-on-one saves or intercept long through balls if his defenders are outpaced by Slimani and Feghouli.
Players to Watch
Germany: Mesut Özil. I know. I always pick Özil. But his importance to die Mannschaft is immense; he connects the defenders and Philipp Lahm with the attackers. When he’s off, the whole team is off.
Algeria: Slimani, the intrepid striker. He’ll be the escape valve for an under-pressure Algerian side today. Can he turn defense into offense by tracking down his teammates’ clearances?
Jon Champion and Stewart Robson. I like these two. Even Robbo’s growing on me, despite the fondness for rough play he seems to have developed as a defensive midfielder at West Ham and (pre-Wenger) Arsenal. We’re still going to play Pet Peeve, though.
Match-specific Drinking Games
Pet Peeve: Take a shot whenever Stewart Robson accuses a player of “going to ground easily” or applauds a defender for dirty play. How drunk? Hospitalized.
Walkabout: Take a sip whenever Neuer plays a ball outside his own box. Bonus shot if he does this again. How drunk? Dazed and confused.
Peppered: Have a sip whenever Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi makes a save. How drunk? Steady buzz. Germany should have lots of possession and shots today.
Algeria: Hamoud Boualem.
– Read my general World Cup watching guide.
– Check out Zonal Marking, my favorite tactics website.
– See a commentary schedule or a review of each commentator.
– See where I’m getting my national drink recommendations.
– Check out other match previews involving these teams: USA vs. Germany, South Korea vs. Algeria, Germany vs. Ghana, Belgium vs. Algeria, Germany vs. Portugal
Picture credit: india.com