From Ground Zero: France and Germany win games, Nigeria and Algeria win hearts

Zee Media Bureau/Shobhan Saxena from Rio de Janeiro

After dropping buckets of sweat in the chilly air of Porto Alegre, the German team advanced to the quarter-finals of the World Cup by defeating Algeria by 2-1 in extra time on Monday evening. In a tight game that could have gone either way, the Germans dominated possession, but with skilled players and dangerous counter attacks, their African opponent made them work hard for a place in the next stage.

All the three goals of the game came in extra time. While Schürrle and Özil scored for Germany, Djabou pulled one back for the Algerians. It was the first German victory against Algeria. Now, Germany will take on France at the Maracana on Friday.

Though the temperature at Porto Alegre was 15 degrees, a strong wind added a wind chill factor that should have helped the Germans. But they failed to click in the first half.

Cheered by noisy fans, Algeria had the first good chance of the game on a counter-attack after just nine minutes. Islam Slimani, ran free down the left flank but he was tackled in the last minute by German goalie Manuel Neuer who had to leave his line at least four times to sweep away the Algerian threats.

As the score reamained 0-0 at half time and the German front-line failed to pose any big threat to the Algerian defence, Germany coach, Joachim Löew, replaced Götze, who had done little in the game, with Schürrle at half time. In the second half, the team came back stronger and looked more focused and efficient. But, with Algerian goalie Rais Mhboli doing excellent work, the Germans failed to convert any of their several chances.

As the game went into extra time, in the second minute of the extension, the German pressure had an effect: Muller moved to the right and crossed for Schürrle, who sent the ball into the Algerian goal with a flick from his left foot. In the second half of the extra time, Özil redeemed himself as he kicked a rebound into the net after Schürrle failed to finish a nice move.

With the score reading 2-0 and the clock ticking to 120 minutes, the Algerian case looked helpless, but then Djabou produced a goal to make it 2-1. With less than a minute left in the game, the Algerians pushed hard but it was too late.

Earlier in the day, France beat Nigeria 2-0 at the Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia and qualified in the last-eight of the World Cup. The first goal was scored by Pogba in the 79th minute after the Nigerian goalkeeper Enyeama failed to clear a corner kick and. Then stoppage time, Yobo scored a self-goal in injury time and gave France a 2-0 lead.

With the win, France, who do not have their star player Franck Ribery, remain unbeaten in the competition. So far, the French have won three games and tied one.

The beginning of Ramadan on Saturday did not appear to compromise the performance of the players of both teams on the field. Both teams showed great enthusiasm and speed during the game. Both teams have Muslim players.

Though France won the game, the Nigerians gave them a tough time, especially in the first half. France got their first scare after 19 minutes of the first half, when Musa crossed for Emenike, who scored the goal, but the linesman denied it by calling the play offside. The French answer came three minutes later, when Pogba received a cross inside the area and shot at the Nigerian goal, but the goalkeeper Enyeama made a great save.

In the second half, Benzema missed an incredible opportunity when the French striker got the ball in the area and the shot beat Enyeama but a save was made over the goal line by Chelsea outcast Victor Moses.

In the 79th minute, when it seemed that the match would go to extra time, Pogba scored for the French. And as Yobo sent the ball into his own goal at stoppage time, it was all over for the Africans, who fought hard and gave a tough fight to the French.

The day was won by two European teams, but the hearts were won by the Africans.

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