World Cup 2014: Matchday Eighteen (Last 16)

France 2 – 0 Nigeria

An intriguing contest that remained tight for a great deal of time, before the better side really shone through.

Nigeria made the better of the opening exchanges. Musa showed in the group stages what he is capable of and did more of that here down the right as Moses did the same down the left. The French, having largely eased through the first stage of the competition, were unused to such a stern attacking challenge, and were lucky when Emenike was flagged offside for what could have been the opener.

France eventually did come into the contest, with Pogba given the time and space in midfield to dictate much of their play and possession, his own volley from close enough range one of France’s first real chances. Deebuchy’s later shots was one of the only remaining efforts to threaten either goal, and by the end of the opening 45 it was clear that the contest was equal enough, both teams being enterprising in midfield without showing any sort of clinical edge in the final third.

The game resumed it’s back and forth nature in the second, with both sides suddenly making more chances. Odemwingie’s low shot almost gave the Africans the lead but for Lloris’ sharp save, and Benzema’s breakaway effort was partially saved by Enyeama and then cleared off the line by Moses.

Nigeria were still looking decent enough going forward, but the French defence was stepping up to neuter their attacking opportunities before they could really start, while making more of their own up at the other end, substitute Griezmann doing much better than Giroud in the latter stages.

It was a shame that when the goal came it was due largely to an error from Enyeama. He had been stellar throughout the tournament up to that point, but was caught flapping hopelessly at the corner that lead to Pogba’s opener, a cool header into an unguarded net.

The Nigerians did not appear to have anything left after that, unable to threaten the French goal and looking very open in their own back line. The second was no surprise, Yobo unable to deal with Valbuena’s low cross into the six yard box, and that was that.

France did not impress greatly, but have gotten past their toughest test f the tournament so far without many blemishes. Nigeria were lucky enough to get this far, and that showed.

Germany 2 – 1 Algeria AET

After an early spell of German pressure, Algeria really seemed determined to press hard and taker the game to the favourites. There was a period for around 20 minutes when the Germans seemed in dire straits, with Slimani a constant threat, seeking to get on the end of Feghouli crosses, with one in the net that was disallowed for offside. Then Ghoulam had Algerians chance of the game, steaming into the left of the penalty area before slicing his shot well wide.

Germany did reassert some control after that nervy period, with Ozil and Muller both having decent chances saved well by Rais, before Mostefa’s deflected effort almost opened the scoring for the Algerians at the other end. Germany were struggling to deal with the narrow Algerian formation that could spring wide in the final third, and their own front line, notably Gotze, looked surprisingly flat footed throughout much of the opening 45. A succession of long balls had Neuer scrambling from his goal to save the day, a requirement he carried out with no hesitation or fear.

That changed big time in the second half. The Algerians suddenly decided to do as their initial starting line up had suggested, and fell back, largely surrendering possession to  German team that had found some passing competence and was willing to press to a greater extent.

The opportunities came as a tired looking Algerian defence was rent open again and again, especially from the left. Substitute Schurrle had an early effort sent wide, Lahm’s shot produced a fine save, Muller’s short range header was beaten back by Rais before Schurrle and Howedes both had efforts cleared off the line.

Algeria could try and counter, but Neuer deliberate roll as a sweeper keeper denied many of their more ambitious efforts, with Boatang and Mertezacker clearing up nearly everything else, Slimani with a single shot straight at the German keeper.

After more saves from Muller and Scweinsteiger, Rais must have been delighted to see the game go to extra time, but the resistance was finally broken at that point. Schurrle’s goal had more than a bit of luck about it, but came from more good German pressure down the flanks that Algeria just could not deal with.

Algeria had little left in the tank to actually chase the game at that point, and the German defence had little trouble mopping up whatever they attempted. Ozil’s second came after the Algerian defence was so exhausted they could no longer deal with the sweeping German attacks, with shots producing rebound after rebound. Djabou’s rifled effort had more to do with a defence that was already looking forward to France, and Germany saw it out.

Not a vintage German performance, but they improved as the game went on and dominated the last 75 minutes. Their skill won out, and Algerian showed they simply did not have the fitness to keep up.

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