The third day of knockout stage matches in the World Cup, between two former World Champions and two nations that haven’t done much on the World Cup stage. France play Nigeria at Brasilia to open the day and we finish with Germany against Algeria in Porto Alegre.
Unlike the second matchup, France aren’t massive favorites against the West African side who have made it through to the round of 16 multiple times but never to the quarterfinals. We’ve seen some attacking flair from Nigeria in this tournament: Emmanuel Emenike has impressed against Bosnia and we also saw some nice things coming from Ahmed Musa against Argentina and Peter Odemwingie in general.
However, as the cliche says about African sides, there’s something too raw with their technique and tactical reactions in the match. They got through Bosnia, the match that landed them in second place, thanks to terrible officiating decisions and being in better shape than Bosnia. But we still haven’t seen great football in all three matches, with their midfield rarely dominating for long stretches or their attack providing some interesting, quick combinations.
France have been one of the more pleasant sides to see in this tournament. Their draw with Ecuador taught us that is hasn’t been the fantastic Karim Benzema who has been in charge of how well they’ve been playing. It has much more to do with Mathieu Valbuena, the tiny right winger who is the team’s best set piece takes and adds a dimension of pace with the ball we don’t see from anyone else in the front line. His return to the lineup should give us the France we saw in their first two matches.
For Germany, Algeria present an interesting challenge. Everyone loves to remember the match from 1982, one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. But those teams have nothing to do with the two facing each other in Porto Alegre 32 years later. Germany are still a world power, waiting for its first major title since Euro 1996. Algeria are a team that is in the knockout stage for the first time ever.
Algeria aren’t the team we through they were, but they’re more likely to put on the defensive approach we saw from them in the loss to Belgium or the first half against Russia than the attacking demonstration we saw from them against South Korea. There’s unity to this team, which means attacking players do defensive roles without it causing a problem. They key for them will be giving Bastian Schweinsteiger problems.
Germany have talent everywhere, although they don’t have attacking full backs that might help them open up things from the wings against tight defenses. Still, the movement of Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller in the front three makes up for that. Still, it’s going to be the way Schweinsteiger pushes them from behind that will determine if this will be a quick, dangerous Germany team we see or a side that struggles against the Algerian bus.