Five of the best: Key men vs. Germany
Algeria meet Germany in the round of 16 on Monday. Here are the five men who could make the difference for Les Fennecs on a make-or-break day for Vahid Halilhodzic's side and Africa's hopes at this World Cup.
Germany have played centre-halves as fullbacks, so Feghouli should look to put pressure on the larger, slower Benedikt Howedes, who is set to start at left-back. During the group stage, Feghouli drifted from the touchline to combine with Yacine Brahimi in the centre of the pitch. However, if Les Fennecs are to going to be successful attacking the Germans, Feghouli will have to maintain Algeria's width and attack Howedes.
The Algerian player with the most distance covered in this tournament -- running 21.3 miles in three matches -- Bentaleb and his energy in midfield will be of paramount importance against a German midfield that has managed 62 percent possession at this World Cup. On the ball, the Tottenham midfielder has averaged a team-high 44 passes per game and has completed 84 percent of those passes. He will be an essential cog in a scrappy midfield battle.
Algeria's captain was kept out versus Russia due to a minor thigh strain, but his return against Germany is timely. With 64 appearances for the national team, Bougherra contributes a wealth of experience to the team lacking it most in the tournament. More importantly for this match, Bougherra brings an on-ball assuredness out of defence that is crucial for maintaining possession.
Slimani has scribbled his name into two pages of Algerian footballing folklore. Not only did he score the all-important equaliser to send Les Fennecs to their first-ever round of 16, but he has also joined Salah Assad atop Algeria's goal-scoring charts at the World Cup, with two goals in the tournament. Against Germany, the Sporting Lisbon striker will have his work cut out for him. Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker are an accomplished pair that have kept out the best of strikers, and Slimani will need to win the physical battle against the experienced duo if Algeria are to score against a German team that has kept two clean sheets in three games.
Algeria's No. 1 is quietly having a magnificent tournament, with the CSKA Sofia goalkeeper already making 13 saves in three matches. Though the quantity of saves made is impressive, the quality of a few of them is what has been more important. M'Bolhi was decisive when it mattered most, denying South Korea and Russia at key junctures and effectively shifting momentum toward Algeria. The 28-year-old has amassed 30 caps for his nation, and he will need every ounce of accumulated experience to frustrate a well-oiled German machine that has scored seven goals in three matches.