World Cup 2014: Germany & Algeria deliver 'beautiful story'
In a World Cup that rarely seems to deliver a bad game, we probably should have known that Germany's 2-1 extra-time victory over Algeria would be another belter.
The pre-match atmosphere inside Estadio Beira-Rio suggested otherwise: a cold, wet, gloomy day in keeping with the low-key mood as kick-off neared in a tie Germany were expected to win.
There was little singing, dancing, colour or culture - at least not to the levels witnessed prior to most other fixtures in a tournament where the on and off-field flair has reflected that of Brazil itself.
But even without the carnival spirit, the football delivered.
Open, fearless attacking play, the underdog pushing a favourite to its limit, deservedly earning respect and support, threatening an upset few could have argued about had it materialised.
Germany go on to meet France in what should be a classic quarter-final between two of the game's traditional powerhouses. Algeria go home with their heads held high.
|Brazil v Colombia||Friday, 4 July||21:00 BST|
|France v Germany||Friday, 4 July||17:00 BST|
|Netherlands v Costa Rica||Saturday, 5 July||21:00 BST|
|Argentina/Switzerland v Belgium v USA||Saturday, 5 July||17:00 BST|
"We're devastated but proud," captain Madjid Bougherra told BBC Sport. "We showed good football, a good image and played with heart and togetherness. We nearly did something beautiful. But this is football and we are part of the story."
It is a story that appears to provide a new thrill, a fresh piece of drama, yet more tension every step it takes towards the conclusion.
This was billed as a grudge match: Algeria seeking revenge for Germany's convenient 1-0 win against Austria in the 1982 World Cup, which sent those two into the knockout stage and the Desert Foxes out.
But there was no sign of any spite as both team went in search of goals.
There were 38 shots - 28 of those by Germany, a record in a match this World Cup. Yes, much of the finishing was below-par. But the goalkeepers were superb and, anyway, it added to the drama.
|9||Shots off target||4|
|86||Passing success %||68|
|89||Tackles success %||83|
Algeria repelled an early spell of pressure from the three-time champions before visibly growing in belief, creating a series of brilliant chances and heading in for half-time the better team.
Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff said his side were "not surprised".
"They played the tactics we expected but we didn't play well in the first half.
"We didn't run a lot, we didn't adapt, everybody wanted the ball at their feet and Algeria were smart on counter-attacks."
The introduction of forward Andre Schurrle at the break, and midfielder Sami Khedira later on, made a significant difference and Germany were able to establish an element of control.
However, Algeria now had the backing of many neutrals as well as their own followers and they responded by showing near-faultless defensive resilience, while still getting forward when viable.
"They didn't score after 90 minutes and during the break before extra time we were very confident, " said Bougherra. "We said, 'don't concede a goal and maybe we can take it to penalties'."
Schurrle's strike early in the added period was greeted with scenes of relief, rather than wild celebration, among the Germany players, staff and supporters - quite a few of whom come from Porto Alegre following vast 19th century European immigration to the city.
Mesut Ozil struck a second to ease the nerves, but Abdelmoumene Djabou volleyed in to rekindle Algerian hopes. A last-gasp chance had the entire squad off the bench, but Germany stood firm.
As coach Vahid Halilhodzic and a number of his charges failed to control the flow of tears at full time, a chant of "Algeria! Algeria!" rang out around the stadium for a good 30 seconds. The loss meant African representation in Brazil is over.
The last-16 has seen hosts Brazil scrape past Chile on penalties, Netherlands and France leave it late against Mexico and Nigeria, and now Germany have pulled off their own dramatic escape.
"The thing I'm most worried about now is the physical state," said Bierhoff. "We have a lot of tiredness in our legs, so we have to see over the coming days how to recover, how to get fresh.
"It will be a new game and France, for sure, at the moment could be a little bit the favourite."
Against Algeria, Germany did not resemble a team who plan to lift the title in Rio on 13 July. Their defence looked sluggish, midfield unimaginative and attack profligate. There was a distinct lack of urgency and a further headache when right-back Shkodran Mustafi limped off to join Lukas Podolski on the sidelines.
"There's a saying in the US: it's about survive and advance," said Bierhoff, the former Germany captain. "We survived. We knew it would be difficult, like it has been for all the other teams too. Nobody is easy any more.
"I didn't expect teams to play so openly. Everybody plays to win. It's not very defensive. It's a very interesting World Cup."
|Germany's possible path to the final|
|Quarter-final||France||Friday, 4 July|
|Semi-final||Brazil/Colombia||Tuesday, 8 July|
|Final||Netherlands/Costa Rica/Argentina/Switzerland/Belgium/USA||Sunday, 13 July|
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