African courage, European victories in Brazil

1 July 2014

Africa’s challenge at the 2014 Fifa World Cup was brought to an end in the round of 16 after Nigeria and Algeria bowed out of contention on Monday. Despite the losses, there were positives to take out of two battling performances.

Nigeria, the African champions, were the first to fall, beaten 2-0 by France at the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia.

The contest was level at the break, but the French found two late goals to advance to the quarterfinals.

Goal

Paul Pogba put them in front in the 79th minute after Victor Enyeama, who had kept 21 clean sheets for Lille in France’s Ligue 1 in the past season, made a mess of dealing with a corner, which allowed the Juventus midfielder the chance to head his team into the lead.

The tie was decided two minutes into additional time when Joseph Yobo netted an own goal.

‘We didn’t deserve to lose’

“Every defeat is painful, especially when the players follow their instructions and play well, as they did against France. We didn’t deserve to lose, but that’s football and we have to accept it,” Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi said after the contest.

“We have to keep going forward and move on to something else now. There’s no point looking for guilty parties. The team plays, wins or loses together.

“I’d like to thank the Brazilian public for their support during all of our games. I couldn’t have hoped for more from them.”

France’s coach Didier Deschamp commented: “Nigeria played a very physical game and had a real presence across the pitch. It was a challenge to go up against that, but we managed it.”

Pushed all the way

Algeria pushed Germany all the way at the Estadio Beira-Rio, but in the end the European powerhouse continued with its remarkable record of having reached the quarterfinals of every World Cup since 1938. They needed extra time to advance, however.

Coach Joachim Low’s side pushed hard for victory over the North Africans, but goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi continually stonewalled them. Two minutes into extra time, though, Andre Schuerrle finally found a way past the goalie.

Extra time opening goal

Launching a swift counter-attack, the Germans attacked down the left, with Lukas Podolski sending in a low cross for Schuerrle, who cleverly redirected the ball, passed a little behind him, into the Algerian net.

In the second last minute, Germany opened up the Algerian defence again. Mesut Ozil set up Schuerrle for another shot on goal, but when it was stopped on the goalline it came out to Ozil and he made no mistake, blasting it into the African team’s goal, despite the efforts of two defenders to cover behind Mbolhi.

Almost immediately, Algeria hit back with a superb flowing move which was expertly finished by Abdelmoumene Djabou with a one-time shot from the left post after the ball had been curled in from the right.

‘We’re very disappointed’

After the match, Algerian goalkeeper Mbolhi, who was named man of the match, said: “We played against a very strong Germany team and conceded two goals late on. We’re very disappointed because we felt we had a chance. Fitness wasn’t the decisive factor.

Taking something positive out of the clash, he added: “We’re part of Algeria’s footballing history because we’re the first team to have come this far and we can build on this for the future. We owe it to our coach that we made it into the Round of 16. We’d like to thank him for everything he’s done for and with the team.”

Low’s thoughts

Germany’s coach Joachim Low admitted his team had been pushed all the way before clinching victory. “You need to catch your breath after a game like that, and at the end it was sheer force of will that got us the win,” he said.

“We didn’t get into our rhythm in the first half and lost a lot of balls, but we were the better team after the break and in extra time.”

France and Germany will next meet in the quarterfinals at the Estadio do Maracana on Rio de Janeiro on Friday.