For most of the bigwigs in the World Cup field, the appropriate theme song is the old Ringo Starr standard "It Don't Come Easy."
The degree of difficulty turned out stunningly high for Germany against Algeria, continuing a tournament theme with projected mismatches. The Germans were dragged kicking (often not very well) and screaming (at each other a few times) into overtime before goals during the first and last few minutes of the extra half-hour salvaged a 2-1 win.
Thomas Mueller dribbled down the left side and dished to halftime substitute Andre Schurrle for the tap-in that untangled the tie. It took that long for Germany, with a 2-to-1 edge on ball possession, to figure out the combination to the lock that bolted down its goal.
When Mesut Ozil batted in a rebound in the 119th minute for Germany's second score, an elite-eight encounter with France seemed a done deal.
Yet the gallant Algerians, with only two minutes of stoppage time in the second overtime period at their disposal, sent German hearts aflutter with a goal by Abdelmoumene Djabou in the 121st minute and a last-gasp try by Madjid Bougherra that was saved.
Algeria, a pleasant surprise in group play, had a surprise for its first knockout game--an overhauled lineup with five newcomers. Significantly, one was an extra striker that enlivened the attack and exposed a shortage of German speed.
The Germans' back line, which came well up the field early in the game when their teammates held possession, often got caught by surprise on long passes in the counter-attack. Goalkeeper-cum-sweeper Manuel Neuer had no choice but to wander out of the box to cover up for his teammates' tardiness to retreat. Neuer made saves every which way--with feet, hands, even on a header.
Adjusting to the absence of German defender Mats Hummels, who awakened with flu symptoms and was scratched, was hardly smooth.
For all of Algeria's offensive vibrancy in the opening half, it could not get a goal. An offsides call negated a shot into the net.
What is customarily trademark precision passing by the suddenly nonchalant Germans bordered on atrocious before the break. The only legitimate threat was a pair of bang-bang shots that were turned away by Algerian goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi.
Halftime tweaks enabled the Germans to dominate possession on the offensive side for most of the second period. But M'Bolhi hung tough, denying Mueller and others until they delivered an expected result in an unexpected manner.
As Mr. Starr might have warbled, yet again, "You know it don't come easy."
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