On June 30th, Germany and Algeria meet at the Estádio Beira-Rio to face off in the round of 16. Germany made it out of their group as most expected them to, despite it being quite a tough group. Algeria shocked people by getting out of a group many thought they would finish last in.
Algeria was put into a relatively easy group, but many thought that either Russia or South Korea would finish second behind the talented Belgium team. After putting in a fantastic performance against South Korea, earning them a 4-2 win, Algeria needed at least a draw vs the Russians to go through. Despite going 1-0 down early on, Algeria got the draw they needed after Islam Slimani headed them level. This is the first time Algeria have ever advanced to the round of 16.
Germany negotiated their way through a very difficult group G. The Germans went undefeated through group play with wins against Portugal and the United States and a draw vs Ghana. On the last match day of the group, Joachim Löw was all but certain Germany would go through, as they would need a large loss to not go through. Die Mannschaft kept the Americans at arms length cruising to a pretty easy 1-0 win to top the group.
Germany will be sweating over the fitness of centre-back Mats Hummels. Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger looks fit to play, despite going off early against the United States. Algeria don’t look to have any injury concerns and will go in vs Germany with everything they have got.
This match up has a great story line. Algeria finally get a chance in a competitive game to avenge the 1982 World Cup. In the 1982 World Cup, Algeria and West Germany were in the same group, along with Chile and Austria. Chile and Algeria played their final group game with Algeria winning 3-2. West Germany and Austria played later meaning they knew the result and could plan accordingly. Austria and West Germany knew a 1-0 West German win would send them both through. The two countries made an agreement to play out that result allowing West Germany to score early and then passing between themselves for the rest of the game. The Algerian FA were enraged and protested the result, but, since there weren’t any rules actually broken, FIFA were unable to take any action. This, and the fact that a similar event happened in the 1978 World Cup, is the reason the final group games are played simultaneously. This is the first time the two nations have met competitively since allowing the Algerians to attempt to avenge 1982. The only time the two nations have ever met was in that 1982 and Algeria came out 2-1 victors over, what was at the time, West Germany.
The key man for the Algerians in their attempt to cause a major upset is Valencia winger, Sofiane Feghouli. Feghouli is the man most likely to cause the Germans problems. Löw has been playing without true full-backs, playing Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Höwedes, both natural centre-backs, as his full-backs. Neither Boateng nor Höwedes are particularly fleet of foot. This lack of pace could allow the Valencia man to trouble whichever full-back he lines up against. He will also likely keep his full-back pinned back as a precaution to make sure they don’t get caught out of position. This could lead to a lack of width in the German attack. Algeria will likely line up to defend and counter, like they did against Belgium in their first group game. The pace and skill of former French under 21 international will be vital on the counter. If any of the Algerian players are going to cause the German back line problems it’s likely to be the talented Valencia winger.
The key man for Germany is Arsenal’s record signing, Mesut Özil. Algeria will likely come to defend and be very compact. It will be up to the creative stars, specifically Özil, to find a way to break down that Algerian defence. Germany have been playing in a 4-3-3, with Özil playing in the front three along with Mueller and Götze. The movement and interchanging between that forward trio will be key to the Germans unlocking the Algerian defence. After an up and down season with Arsenal, a big performance would do Özil’s confidence a world of good.
It would take a minor miracle for Algeria to beat Germany. Germany are far superior in terms of talent and have impressed during this tournament. This World Cup has been full of surprises, though, and nothing is a certainty. That said, I have to go with a comfortable German victory. If it is anything but that Löw will be under even more pressure than he already is. Löw could lose his job if they go out so early.