Knee-jerk Reactions: Day Nineteen, Germany 2-1 Algeria (Second Round, Porto Alegre)
Memories of 1982. In the run-up to this match, there was a lot of talk of Gijon in 1982 where Algeria beat West Germany, Breitner, Rummenigge and all, 2-1 in one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. However, what was most striking about tonight’s game in temperate Porto Alegre was the fact that Germany, playing perhaps as badly as they have in a major tournament since 2004, found a way to win – just like the 1982 team did in the aftermath of the Algerian defeat. That’s the only positive…
Oezil as passenger. Germany have serious problems. Mesut Oezil, yet again, ghosted around the pitch insipidly. His late goal summed him up. Miscontrolling a simple pass from the busy Andre Schuerrle, he passed the buck back to the Chelsea man who proceeded to shoot lamely. When the attempt was blocked, Oezil finally showed some conviction to drive he ball into the net. It only took three chances – and that’s two too many at the highest level.
Loew the stubborn ideologue. Tonight’s game confirmed what many have long suspected. Philipp Lahm is far more effective as a full back. However, Joachim Loew, intoxicated by the snake oil of Pep Guardiola, refuses to play him in his best position and continues the failed experiment of using the Bayern captain in midfield. The idea is to protect the Brontosaurus-like centre of defence, but that’s only an option when you’ve got acceptable full back alternatives – which he doesn’t. Shkodran Mustafi is probably out of the tournament now – not that he was a viable replacement to start with – but any injury to Bastian Schweinsteiger will guarantee Lahm returns to his midfield beat.
Germany – a poor man’s Spain. To listen to German journalists talk of a “lack of control” during the second half was to wonder what happened to the self-confident German football culture that looked on Spain as somewhere to go on holidays. This sad infatuation with Guardiola hasn’t resulted in more success for Bayern or Germany and it may take the sacking of Loew to return Germany to its heritage. Spain were the real deal. Loew’s Germany are a cheap knock-off.
France as favourites. Given the abject mediocrity of Benedikt Hoewedes, the wallflowers in midfield, the physical decline of Bastian Schweinsteiger, and, above all, the intransigence of Loew, Germany will probably come to the end of their road in Rio on Friday. France look less flawed than this German team and are certainly more balanced. Given the palpable confusion and disarray that characterised the first half of this German performance, France could well make hay at the Maracana – and win well. Germany have played 30 minutes they wouldn’t have expected to play. All things considered, France are clear favourites on Friday.