From Ground Zero: Last 16 line-up ready - Germany to meet Algeria, US clashes with Belgium
Zee Media Bureau/ Shobhan Saxena from Brasilia
Germany beat US 1-0 in Recife in their last Group G game, but both sides went into the last of 16 of the World Cup. A 2-1 win for Portugal over Ghana in the section`s other game was enough to push both the Americans and Germans through four and seven points.
The Germans dominated the opening quarter-hour. The Europeans pressed forward with power and speed, perhaps eager to squash suspicion that they would play for a mutually-beneficial draw.
US had very little possession of the ball in the first-half and they were clearly set-up to break on the counter-attack. Their best chance came in the 22nd minute but Brad Davis’ curling shot from the edge of the area kept rising over the bar and landed in the crowd behind.
Finally, in the second half that was also dominated by Germany, Thomas Muller scored on a rebound from the US goalie Tim Howard. Though Germany had many scoring chances, they failed to send the ball into the American goal.
Even as the Europeans and Americans made it into the pre-quarter final stage, African football is still alive in the World Cup. For the first time in its history, Algeria qualified for the last of 16 round. The milestone was achieved with a 1-1 draw with Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.
The Russian striker Kokorin opened the scoring after 5 minutes in the first half. The equalizer came from Islami Slimani, with just 14 minutes before the final whistle.
The Algerians finished second in Group H with four points. They were only behind the Belgians, who have nine points. Algeria, after three failed attempts, managed to find a place in the top 16 of a World Cup. Their previous campaigns (in 1982, 1986 and 2010) always ended in the group stage.
On the other hand, the Russians continued with the trend of failing to reach the pre-quarter-final since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1994 and 2002, the national team fell in the group stage. In 1998, 2006 and 2010, the team even didn’t qualify for the World Cup.
In the next phase, Algeria faces Germany. The game is scheduled for next Monday (June 30) in Porto Alegre. Belgium will take on the US in Salvador on Tuesday.
In their game against South Korea, Belgium packed half the team with reserve players, but still managed to maintain their 100% success rate in the group stage of the World Cup when they beat the Asians 1-0 at Itaquerão in São Paulo on Thursday.
The Belgian captain Vertonghen scored the winner after 31 minutes in the second half.
In another game of the day, which was important only for Ghana and Portugal as the two teams faced certain elimination, Portugal won 2-1 against Ghana at the Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia. But both the teams said goodbye to the World Cup as they finished at the bottom of the points table in the group.
Despite beating the African team, Portugal lost to the US on goal difference (-3 to 0) and left the World Cup.
With the US defeat to Germany, both the Portuguese and the Americans had four points each, but the American team won the second place in the group on the basis of better goal difference.
In the meantime, as the last of 16 line-up became clear on Thursday, a big debate is raging about the punishment imposed by the FIFA disciplinary committee on Uruguyan striker Luis Suárez for biting on the shoulder Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
The Uruguayan is out of the World after receiving a ban for nine matches and four months. Moreover, he was forbidden to practice any activity linked to football for a period of four months. The punishment may be appealed, but the player has already gone to Montevideo, where he was received by thousands of people.
The attack, which occurred in the second half of Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy on Tuesday, went unnoticed by Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez. Though he didn’t get red card for the offensive action, the harsh punishment given to him at an unprecedented speed has made him a kind of hero in Uruguay.