|Mesut Ozil after scoring his goal against Algeria, on Monday
Porto Alegre: Germany coach Joachim Loew brushed aside criticism that his team are a far-cry from winning a fourth World Cup after they struggled to a 2-1 extra-time last-16 win over Algeria, at the Estadio Beira-Rio, on Monday.
“It’s not a stroll in the park at the World Cup,” Loew said. “There are always some matches like this in a tournament where you have teams that fight hard, where the opponents are defending really tough and playing aggressively.”
Loew, whose fancied team lost in the 2010 semi-finals as well as in the 2006 semis, pointed out that he had warned Algeria would be a dangerous opposition. “You need matches like these at the World Cup. At some point, you’ve got to expect that a match will go into extra time.”
Germany were pushed all the way by an inspired Algeria before Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil scored in extra time before Abdelmoumene Djabou grabbed a consolation goal just before the final whistle. Germany will meet France in the quarter finals.
Loew acknowledged his team did not play as well as they could have and lamented poor finishing once again.
“The match (against France) has to be better,” he said. “We gave up the ball too much, especially in the first half, and practically invited Algeria to initiate counter-attacks.
“We were the better team in the second half though. We had enough chances to have decided it before going to extra time. At the end of the day, it was a victory of our will, our strength of will.”
Loew said that he was forced to re-arrange his back four due to an illness to Mats Hummels, the centre back and bulwark of Germany’s defence at the group stage. He ignored criticism that he waited too long to bring on Schuerrle, who had played 28 minutes in two of Germany’s three group matches, and Sami Khedira.
“They brought some fresh impulses into the match,” said Loew. Andre did a good job. “That’s what was missing in the first half, the finishing.”
Loew said that he was always confident Germany would prevail against the tiring Algerians. “We were in better physical shape than Algeria. You could see they were quite knocked out after 90 minutes and not able to play all out in extra time compared to how we fared.”
Loew revealed Germany’s right-back Shkodran Mustafi will miss the rest of the tournament after suffering a hamstring injury. But midfield general Bastian Schweinsteiger should be fit despite limping off in extra time.
“Mustafi did a great job, but he’s pulled a muscle and will not play a further role in this tournament,” he said. “Schweinsteiger just had cramps at the end, he was just empty after the 90 minutes, but he isn’t injured.”
Loew also singled out Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for an impressive display to repeatedly thwart Algeria'’s attacks until Djabou scored a late consolation goal.
“Neuer had an extraordinary game. He didn’t just have to pull off a lot of saves, but he kept cutting out their long passes into his area and dealt well with them. He came out a lot and made a great save right at the end when Algeria were desperate for a goal,” he emphasised.
Germany’s quarter final clash against France, at the Maracana, on Friday, stirs memories of the 1982 World Cup semi-final match, which finished in a dramatic 3-3 draw before the then West Germany won 5-4 win in penalty shoot-out.
“I wouldn’t want to talk about the France-Germany game in 1982, but those have always been dramatic classics between the teams. Didier Deschamps has turned France around since 2010… They have good players like (Karim) Benzema and (Olivier) Giroud who can decide games on their own.
“We’re looking forward to another classic.”
Germany: Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Benedikt Hoewedes; Bastian Schweinsteiger (Christoph Kramer, 109), Philipp Lahm, Shkodran Mustafi (Sami Khedira, 70), Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze (Andre Schuerrle, 46); Thomas Mueller
Algeria: Rais Mbolhi; Essaid Belkalem, Rafik Halliche (Madjid Bougherra, 97) , Fauzi Ghoulam, Aissa Mandi; Mehdi Lacen, Sofiane Feghouli, Saphir Taider (Yacine Brahimi, 78), Mehdi Mostefa; Islam Slimani, El Arabi Soudani (Abdelmoume Djabou, 100)
Man of the Match: Rais Mbolhi
Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil)