Brave Algeria loses to Germany 2-1 in extra time
The North African lions played with energy and confidence to regularly expose a static German defense
Algeria's World Cup campaign has conjured up some outstanding moments. But Germany's sharp extra-time start put an end to dreams of a place in the quarter-finals.
Andre Schurrle hit first, before Mesut Ozil finished off in the final minutes to send Germany through. Substitute Abdel Djabou scored a late consolation in the 120th minute of action in Porto Alegre.
The clean sheet inside 90 minutes, however, was a first for Algeria at this World Cup – a tournament of many achievements: their first win – and goal - at the World Cup since 1982 and the highest-scoring African team in a single match.
Changes - luck or genius?
Whether Vahid Halilhodzic, the Algerian head coach, had a master plan at work, or if he was incredibly lucky, we'll never know. The Franco-Bosnian made another five changes to the starting eleven, as he did for the second group match against South Korea.
It raised an eyebrow, for sure. No Carl Medjani or Nabil Bentaleb, no Yacine Brahimi or Djabou, or Madjid Bougherra from the start. The feeling pre-match immediately was that Algeria would 'park the bus', as the ultra-defensive system has become known.
But actually, Algeria were much more progressive. Defensively strong, well-positioned and compact, they were, but the transitions between defence and attack were lethal, at times. It begs the question if Brahimi, Djabou and others had started, would Algeria have increased their chances of winning this match?
Desert Foxes are up-to-speed
Even after defeat, Algeria can be proud of their new generation. The signs are encouraging, and with the 2015 African Cup of Nations around the corner, success will be the aim.
Key, though, to how strong Algeria have been in building these incisive, quick transitions is the style of player in their ranks. They possess several modern footballers of high-quality.
Not just blessed with technical ability, but the physical capacity - stamina, aggression and acceleration - to perform at the highest level. This style looks to be football's latest cycle - and Algeria have a fine batch of players.
Valencia's Sofiane Feghouli did his reputation little harm at the World Cup, impressing in attack. Strong, but clever with the ball at his feet, the French-born star has been excellent, in a creative sense, and also in helping out defensively.
Likewise, Islam Slimani, Algeria's main striker, led the line with all the required characteristics - athletically strong, speedy and win varying runs.
Catching Germany asleep
Algeria pressed the weak points in the Germany side well. In midfield, neither Philipp Lahm nor Toni Kroos were particularly controlling when the Germans were on top.
And also, in targeting a slow backline made up of four central-defenders, they looked to hit at the heart of Germany's spine.
Long, direct balls that forced the Germans to turn and face their own goal was the best route to goal. Slimani, with his strong skills from the front, impressed.
If it wasn't for the peerless Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer and his excellent anticipation, it could have been a different story.
Just like it was in 1982, the small margins were not on Algeria's side. After 2014, however, the Desert Foxes will bow out of the competition in Porto Alegre with more than a smile.
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