Germany clinched an extra-time win over Algeria in one of the best games of the tournament to set up a quarterfinal against France.
Algeria's team selection had hinted that they would park the bus, and that we would see a game of attack vs. defence, or a comfortable win for Germany. Instead, Algeria put in a magnificent performance and we got a pulsating, raucous, tense and brilliant match where the quality was high for both teams and at both ends of the pitch.
Algeria started strong and immediately put Germany under severe pressure as the underdogs took full advantage of their opponent's weaknesses. Benedikt Howedes and Shkodran Mustafi are more accustomed to playing in central defence rather than the fullback positions, and it showed when Algeria's wingers drove forward with intent, causing mayhem down the flanks.
The first major incident came after 10 minutes when a long ball found Islam Slimani, and Manuel Neuer came charging out of his goal to meet it. But a slight misjudgment from the German keeper left him needing to beat Slimani in a shoulder-to-shoulder race to the loose ball to prevent a certain goal, which he managed to prevent. Algeria continued to threaten, and Per Mertesacker had to produce a last-ditch tackle to deny Slimani before El Arbi Soudani's cross found the striker to see the ball end up in the net, only to be ruled out for a close offside call.
Joachim Low's decision to play so many players out of position looked to be having serious problems for his defence. However, they avoided conceding again when Sofiane Feghouli managed to pick his way into the area but foolishly shot from a tight angle rather than cutting the ball back. Faouzi Ghoulam then maintained the pressure by fizzing a powerful effort across goal.
Germany were not without chances themselves, however, and began to seize more control of the game after being under the cosh for the first half-hour. Toni Kroos tested Rais M'Bolhi with a trademark piledriver, and after the Algerian stopper parried it away he got to his feet to block the follow-up from Mario Gotze to complete a fantastic double-save.
Germany made a half-time change to try and improve the quality of their attacking play, with Gotze making way for Andre Schurrle, and it appeared to make immediate dividends as Die Mannschaft creaked into action with a series of efforts on goal early in the second half. Schurrle hammered his first effort wide before M'Bolhi was called into action to save Mustafi's headed effort.
The match was perhaps best summed up when Neuer fumbled an Algerian corner and only just scrambled to the loose ball with opponents lurking. He immediately stood up and launched a ball to set Schurrle through at the other end, only for the Chelsea forward to be denied by a superb recovery from Rafik Halliche. We've had plenty of exciting games at this tournament so far, but this was one where the defending matched the quality in attack.
Germany's onslaught could not last long however, and Algeria began to regather their composure. The late introduction of Yacine Brahimi also aided their counter-attacking, but Germany continued to threaten a decisive blow. Fine work from Thomas Muller teed up Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the Bayern midfielder headed wide before M'Bolhi made a stunning save to keep Muller out, with Schurrle putting the rebound wide.
The drama did not fade in the dying minutes as Germany was poised to take a free-kick from a dangerous position before Muller bizarrely slipped while taking it. The Algeria counter-attack almost saw Slimani have an open goal for the third time, only for Neuer to once again get the better of him in the footrace. Less than a minute later, Germany were attacking the ragged Algerian backline again, and Schweinsteiger powered a header that looked for all the world to be going in before M'Bolhi pulled off another amazing save.
Algeria were retreating ever deeper as the end of regulation time approached. The crowd by the end of the match were firmly behind the North Africans, relentlessly booing Germany's time on the ball and roaring on every Algeria tackle and pass. Eventually, the time did pass and the game went on to extra-time.
After 90 minutes had somehow passed without a goal, extra-time did not take so long. Just two minutes in, Muller's low centre into the Algerian penalty area was met with a magnificent finish from Schurrle. He flicked it beyond M'Bolhi and into the far corner, finally getting the better of the keeper who had previously looked unbeatable.
Algeria tried to rally, riding their luck several times in the face of multiple German counter-attacks. They got a huge chance when the ball fell at the feet of Mehdi Mostefa from a corner, but the midfielder rolled his effort wide of goal from 12 yards out.
Algeria tried to force further chances in the dying minutes but looked increasingly spent. Muller had two chances to finish it as he saw himself twice put clean through in the space of a minute, but he put his first shot straight at M'Bolhi and after rounding the goalkeeper for the second, saw his cutback cleared. Seconds later Slimani was sent clean through on goal, but with too much ground to cover, Jerome Boateng was able to get back to make the tackle before he could get close enough to shoot.
The game looked to be finished just afterwards when Mesut Ozil, the worst player on the pitch, stuck a dagger into Algerian hearts from Paris to Algiers when, after a one-two with Muller, he pounced on the striker's rebound to slot home at the near post. But just a minute later, Algeria sensationally answered back with about a minute remaining through the substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou, who got on the end of a cross to fire home.
Algeria had one last chance through Djabou, but he could not quite get enough power on his header to trouble Neuer, and the referee called time on one of the greatest Round of 16 games ever to take place. Algeria put in a typically brave performance, and their chance to take on France has gone, but the Germany-France game will be no less alluring in the next round.
Algeria: M'Bolhi, Ghoulam, Belkalem, Halliche (Bougherra 97'), Mandi; Feghouli, Taider (Brahimi 78'), Lacen, Mostefa; Soudani (Djabou 100'), Slimani
Goals: Djabou 121'
Germany: Neuer; Howedes, Mertesacker, Boateng, Mustafi (Khedira 70'); Schweinsteiger (Kramer 109'), Lahm; Ozil, Kroos, Muller; Gotze (Schurrle 46').
Goals: Schurrle 92', Ozil 120'