Day in 100 words or less
It was supposed to be a day without drama. A day the bookmakers told us would be rudimentary, seeing France and Germany breeze by Nigeria and Algeria respectively. We should have known better. France were average for 70 minutes and good for 20, scoring late to prevent Nigeria from moving on. Germany, on the other hand, were pathetic for 70 minutes, average for 20 and marginally better in the extra time they needed to see off Algeria.
Germany 2-1 Algeria (AET)
Germany are in Brazil to win the World Cup. They may be only three wins away but based on this display those victories are going to be very difficult to find. World Cup winners are allowed slow starts and mixed performances along the way, but Joachim Low's side have a lot of work to do between now and July 13.
In the end they, just, deserved the win in Porto Alegre but Algeria played a huge part in an enthralling match. They also did a great job at targeting Germany's high defensive line. The problem for Germany was not the position of the line, but the amount of things they did wrong while playing with it. It was clear they didn't want playmakers dropping in between the lines and with Algeria playing deep, Germany's high line made sense. Except, the players didn't orchestrate the game-plan properly. The full-backs are supposed to drop deep to cover any attackers in behind but their positioning was poor. In front, the midfield of Germany did little to press Algeria into a mistake and far too often balls were easily played over the top, forcing Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng to regularly turn and face their own goal, an area many centre-backs are not comfortable with. Thankfully, they had Manuel Neuer in behind and he made an incredible amount of clearances outside of his box.
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Germany's problems continued in possession. They head into the quarter-finals with too many of their key players either not fit or not playing well. This is a team that became obsessed with Spain after losing to them twice at Euro 2008 and at the last World Cup but at the moment they have a balance issue with their front six.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, so crucial to their hopes, limped off in extra time and will desperately be needed in the quarter-final. Philipp Lahm is a fine midfielder but his value is much higher as a full-back. Forced into that change when Shkodran Mustafi was stretchered off, Lahm at full-back gives Germany an outlet his teammates trust in a wide area. It also unleashes Sami Khedira into midfield, a player, himself, who is not fully fit but who brings something completely different to the midfield with his penetration. Think Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso from 2010 - that is what Khedira and Schweinsteiger can be. A pair with great strength who can dictate the tempo and direction of a match.
Germany's Xavi, Toni Kroos, is a fine player who can dictate the pace and tempo but demands calculated and intelligent movement in front of him. He is not a true playmaker who will beat two or three men and score an individual goal. This puts tremendous pressure on the front three. Again, thinking of Spain, these three are essential for success. Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil are not natural wide players. They like to operate centrally in spaces between the lines but that makes Germany easy to defend against. Germany needed width, much like Spain did in 2010, and on came their Pedro, Andre Schurrle for Gotze. Ozil, however, was no Andres Iniesta. He is a defensive liability when an opponent is not in possession of the ball and when in possession he is not at his best on the left flank. Ozil likes to make quick movements, quick passes to feet, and out wide that requires full-backs to get forward, something this German team does very little of.
Thomas Muller, one of the bright spots for Germany against Algeria, is a vital player for Low's system. However, the jury is still out on what his best position is. Germany started with a false nine in this tournament, then went to Muller as the target man, but it was clear how valuable he is on the Schurrle goal, as his direct running into space and creativity set up the Chelsea man for a moment of brilliance on the goal.
Their next opponents, France, may just be exactly what they need. France are a talented team but they have not been tested enough when forced to defend a lot, they tend to play slowly in possession and Germany should control possession and could do what Spain did to France two years ago at Euro 2012. That is easier said than done, however, and Germany will need to be far better to stay in Brazil. What they do have, though, is a cast of characters who are genuine world class stars. If any team can turn this around quickly it is this one.
France 2-0 Nigeria
There is a very thin line between success and failure at World Cups. The line is different for every team. France's victory over Nigeria saw them jump over that line. Whatever happens from now on, this World Cup has become a success for a French team some thought wouldn't qualify after their loss in Ukraine last October.
Against Nigeria they were far from perfect but their maturity came through. Under Didier Deschamps there is no room for complacency and France were a united front. For the second successive day, a European team grew stronger as the game wore on and a key tactical switch made the difference.
Deschamps chose to play Karim Benzema with Olivier Giroud but Nigeria exploited this, creating overlaps out wide on the left where the Real Madrid man operated. This forced Blaise Matuidi to cover and help Patrice Evra, opening up spaces in midfield.
During the second half Antoine Griezmann was introduced for Giroud and the balance of the side was much better. Benzema was not at his best but, importantly, France were able to pull through in a game where he didn't carry them. The goal came from a set-piece and the Nigerian goalie, Vincent Enyeama, who had been excellent, made one error in judgment and allowed Paul Pogba to nod home the winning goal into an empty net. Laurent Koscienly, a menace to defend at set plays throughout, played a huge part by attracting two defenders that the goalkeeper didn't trust to deal with the Arsenal man.
It was a fitting goal for Pogba, who was the best player on the pitch. In all, many French players who have excelled at the highest level, the Champions League, performed very well like Mathieu Valbuena, Laurent Koscielny, Raphael Varane and Pogba.
Nigeria go home with their heads held high with many of their players having had an excellent World Cup.
Man of the Day
Ahmed Musa – The Nigerian attacker has had a fantastic World Cup and his speed on the counter caused France a number of problems.
Paul Pogba – The Juventus man had easily his best performance at the World Cup so far and scored the crucial goal.
Andre Schurrle – Once again another substitute at this World Cup made a big impact on the game.
Manuel Neuer – The German goalkeeper was sensational, often playing as an 11th outfield player, sweeping up behind his defence.
Essaid Belkalem – The Algerian defence was brilliant, led by the 25-year-old Watford defender.
Manuel Neuer – Arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world today had a monumental match when his country needed him the most.
What comes next?
Argentina vs Switzerland (12pm et/9am pt) and Belgium vs USA (4pm/1pm)
Burning question for Tuesday
Will Belgium start a game better than they have done so far in this World Cup or will they once again start slowly and allow the USA confidence to build?
Key stat of Day 19
With 10 games remaining, we have now had 150 goals at this World Cup. That is more than we had in 2006 and 2010.