I have watched a lot of soccer over the last few years. But I’ve never seen a goalkeeping performance quite like Manuel Neuer’s today. It wasn’t that he was making saves every other minute, but rather, it was that he was doing everything a goalie could possibly do. More times than I could count, Neuer came outside the box to clear a ball from over the top, acting as a sweeper. Behind the slower pairing of Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng, Neuer saved Germany time after time with daring headers and sliding tackles not often seen from goalkeepers. He also was top-class in his claiming of crosses for the most part. And when he was called upon to make a stop, he did that as well. The Bayern keeper’s distribution was also quite impressive, as he sent an inch perfect, three-quarter field punt right onto Andre Schürrle’s chest in the second half – a chance the Chelsea man was unlucky not to convert. Neuer was certainly not at fault for Algeria’s late goal. If there were any doubts about who the best goalkeeper in the world is going into today, those are all gone.
As a whole, the Germans certainly underwhelmed. They got their tempo all wrong, and had a hard time creating any real chances. Even when Schürrle came on at halftime, Germany lacked width, and the Algerians could squeeze the Germans off the ball in the middle of the park. With Neuer in goal, Die Mannschaft didn’t look too concerned at any point today, but the lack of urgency in the second half was troubling to watch, as one would expect a team full of winners like Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger to know when more is needed. At times they were careless in possession, and a couple of times Algeria nearly exposed the absence of pace in the back, but Germany never lost control of this match. That confidence is one of their strengths, but against a better side, it could be a fatal flaw.
The Algerian keeper Raïs M’Bohli was also impressive today, making save after save in regulation. The Germans weren’t as ruthless as they could have been, but the Algerian keeper was always in the right place. There wasn’t much he could do on Germany’s goals in extra time. Aside from him, Algeria were solid if unspectacular. One can’t say they were underserving of making it this far, and their progression from four years ago was notable.
From an Arsenal standpoint, neither Mesut Özil nor Per Mertesacker shone particularly brightly today. Özil created a couple nice chances in the first half, but once again he didn’t seem too eager to track back, letting his man in on goal early on. In contrast to Thomas Müller, who was constantly sprinting back to add cover for the defense, Özil looked disinterested in the greater cause. That being said, he did play a lot of great balls, and was better in possession. He had an opportunity to hit a left-footed shot at the start of extra time, but tried to cut it onto his weaker right instead, losing the ball in the process. It was as big a sign as any that he still lacks confidence right now. However, his late goal could be vital for his mental game going forward. I was beyond giddy to see him convert the rebound. Mertesacker was solid early on, making a few key tackles, but he looked particularly slow today, exposed by Algeria’s counters. He will feel lucky to have survived that game defensively.
Lastly, the news that Toni Kroos is likely transferring to Real Madrid comes as wonderful news for Arsenal supporters. Kroos’s arrival in the Real Madrid defense would open a door for Sami Khedira to leave. With Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso, Asier Illaramendi and potentially Kross all capable of playing deeper in midfield, Khedira would seem surplus to requirements. Linked with the Gunners as recently as this morning, the German midfielder would be the perfect signing for Arsenal. He is great in possession, a wonderful tackler and a proven winner. However, potentially most importantly, he is a close friend of Mesut Özil. Khedira could bring out the best in the Arsenal number 11, making him feel more at home. Khedira was terrific off the bench today for Germany, hopefully showing Arsene Wenger he would be crazy not to bring him to The Emirates.
Germany won’t be able to get away with a disinterested performance against France on Friday. And as there are only three full days of rest between now and then, Jogi Löw’s side could regret having to play an extra thirty minutes today in the heat. Towards the end of the match, a few Germans looked to be tiring, so they’ll need to make a quick turnaround to be at their best on Friday. If the quarterfinal goes into extra time, Germany could be at a big disadvantage now. But they got the win today, and for now, that’s all that matters.
July 1, 2014 at 6:06 am
Mertelsacker is a really good player but he needs someone beside him who he can trust and rely on…and that’s usually Hummels. Because Boateng left so often the position he was supposed to play, Mertelsacker was often forced to do the work of two defenders, and he is simply not fast enough for certain situations. That is usually not really a problem, unless you have such an idiotic starting defence.
Mustafi was a mistake. He was already not very convincing against Ghana, and the weakest point during this game, too. He simply isn’t made for this position, and he lacks the confidence to go forward. At one point, the German team was basically playing with ten men, because nobody was playing the ball in his direction anymore, even in situations when he stood free.
Özil needs to learn that sometimes it is better just to try to make the goal instead of giving the ball to another player. Schürrle has to learn to be less egoistic, he ruined some good chances because he held on the ball for way too long.
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