PORTO ALEGRE: If revenge is a plate best served cold, Algeria will hope to dish it out to Germany in their World Cup Round of 16 match today, 32 years after one of the most shameful games in the tournament’s history.
In all likelihood, however, a powerful Germany side will bring the Desert Foxes’ run to an end and deprive them of retribution and further glory. But it might not be easy.
The Germans, champions in 1954, 1974 and 1990, arrived in Brazil as one of the favourites. They showed their credentials by demolishing Portugal 4-0 in their opening game but stumbled slightly against Ghana, drawing 2-2.
They then dismissed the United States with a strong performance that still left some room for improvement, although Thomas Mueller showed again what a lethal striker he is.
Algeria, masterminded by the wily French Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic and carrying the hopes of the Arab world with them, have impressed.
After losing their opening match to Belgium, they overwhelmed South Korea 4-2 in an epic match in Porto Alegre.
In their crucial final group game, a headed goal by Islam Slimani brought them back from 1-0 down against Russia to secure a draw, sending them through to the last 16 and their fans - possibly the most devout in the tournament - into ecstasy.
Algeria have beaten Germany in the World Cup before, defeating the then-West Germany 2-1 in Spain in 1982. But what followed was a travesty.
After also defeating Chile, Algeria were on the cusp of qualifying for the knockouts. West Germany met Austria in the final group game with a narrow German victory enough for both teams to go through and see Algeria eliminated. After an early German goal, the two kicked the ball around aimlessly without trying to score again. The cynical display caused worldwide outrage and has gone down in the annals of soccer infamy as “the Shame of Gijon”.
So the stage is set for a grand show in Porto Alegre’s Beira Rio Stadium, with the winner’s reward a quarter-final against France or Nigeria. While satisfied with Germany’s performance against the United States, coach Joachim Loew signalled they needed to tighten up in several aspects of their play.
He criticised the finishing and said they were also careless in the match’s later stages, squandering possession in midfield.
Still, with four goals, Mueller is the tournament’s joint top scorer with Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar.
Algeria will hope Porto Alegre will be propitious for them after their historic battle here against South Korea, when their four goals made then the highest-scoring African side in a single World Cup game.
This is also the first time two African sides have reached the last 16 - African champions Nigeria being the other.
Halilhodzic had complained after the loss to Belgium that his team lacked the fitness to press to the end and needed to be psychologically stronger. That seems to have been rectified. Algeria - whose team is built around French-born players from the former colonial power’s immigrant community - were on the back foot against the Russians for much of the first half but they rallied magnificently in the second.
Slimani is also proving to be one the tournament’s players to watch and after his 60th minute goal, Algeria had the discipline to hold firm against surging Russian attacks.
“I love it as a coach to see my team fighting like this,” Halilhodzic said after the match. “(Germany) are a huge team. It’s going to be very complicated for us. We are small Algeria against big Germany.”
Meanwhile, Germany will be without winger Lukas Podolski in their World Cup last-16 match against Algeria in Porto Alegre today after he picked up a thigh muscle injury in their last group game, coach Joachim Loew has said.
Podolski, who is no longer an automatic starter for the national team, was injured in the first half of their 1-0 win over the United States and was taken off at halftime.
Tests late on Saturday showed he would not be available for their first knockout game in the tournament.REUTERS