German machine rolls on but some fine tuning still required

The Rio Report

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What a game. In a World Cup that has produced its fair share of magnificent encounters, Germany and Algeria pummelling each other for 120 minutes ranks up there with the best of them.

It seemed that the world, other than a slice of central Europe, was willing Algeria to win, and not just because they were the underdogs. This was a team that, from the start of their opening game against Belgium, played with incredible heart, which we expected, but also remarkable levels of skill and a truly cavalier attitude to both attack and defence.

In many ways, they were the team that summed up this World Cup perfectly, a side that provided jaw-dropping levels of entertainment with little regard for being sensible or cautious. From Saphir Taider to Islam Slimani to the superb Sofiane Fegouli, they played a huge part in this utterly magnificent tournament, and they will be greatly missed.

[MATCH REPORT: GERMANY 2-1 ALGERIA]

Indeed, they followed a pattern from the knockout stages thus far. In virtually every game the underdog has slugged and slugged hard at the established power, very much given them a bloody nose but just couldn't quite finish Goliath off. Mexico led the Netherlands, Chile took Brazil to penalties, Nigeria troubled France for long spells – the only real favourite to have things completely their own way was Colombia, who made relatively short work of the Luis Suarez-less Uruguay.

But Germany eventually prevailed, hammering on the Algerian door long enough that they finally broke through, a superbly inventive finish by Andre Schuerrle finally breaching the Fennec Foxes' backline. And he certainly meant it, even if the finish was a little scuffed.

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So what of their chances in the tournament? Based on this game, the overriding sensation was that Germany would probably lose to the first really good team they face, and since they have France in the next round, who have been more impressive than most throughout the tournament, the signs point to a quarter-final exit for Jogi Loew's men. However, you could say that about the majority of the teams still left in the tournament, with the possible exceptions of Argentina and Colombia, so who knows what the immediate future may hold.

[BLOG: FRANCE LOOK MORE BALANCED WITHOUT GIROUD]

If Germany are to progress though, they will need to improve greatly. They were profligate in attack, squandering a number of fairly straightforward chances even though Rais M'Bolhi had another excellent game in the Algeria goal. Their football was often surprisingly functional for a team containing the likes of Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Mario Goetze, even though that accusation prompted a slightly tetchy reaction after the game.

"What do you want from us?” said Per Mertesacker when questioned about their style of play. “To play beautiful football and go out again?"

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Even at the back they were suspect. Benedikt Hoewedes and Shkodran Mustafi have been unconvincing at best, liabilities at worst. Mertesacker's lack of pace was almost horribly exposed on a couple of occasions while Manuel Neuer's kamikaze tendencies and predilection for almost playing as a holding midfielder, never mind keeper-sweeper, could backfire spectacularly at some point. Indeed, they were sliced open on more than a few occasions by Algeria, with the Africans' poor final ball the only thing preventing them from scoring at least once.

So will Germany eventually be found out? The two schools of thought about a team playing like Germany at present are that they will either be beaten whenever they are faced with a stiff challenge, or that winning while playing badly is a sign of a good team.

Teams have of course reached the World Cup final without being especially convincing throughout, as Germany themselves displayed in 2002, but they very rarely win the thing. Their first game against Portugal aside, Loew's side haven't been especially impressive in Brazil, but as this tournament has displayed time and again, we should never underestimate its capacity to surprise us.

Nick Miller

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