Germans find new ways not to score
With all the pre-match talk of the 1982 "Anschluss," it was fitting that Germany would pay tribute to "The Shame of Gijon" by once again doing their best not to win a game of football. Algeria certainly appreciated the sentiment.
Germany might be the best of the European teams, but this was one of the worst first-half performances offered up by any of them this summer, and that includes England. It was as if Joachim Low's side were so convinced of their superiority that they chose not to bother with the basics. And, like a beekeeper who can't be bothered to put on a mask, it didn't take long before they got stung.
Algeria looked a little baffled at first, as if they couldn't believe their luck. It took nine minutes for them to take advantage of the yawning gaps behind the Germans as they ambled upfield, all too easily distracted by shiny things. Again and again, the North Africans broke, racing in on Manuel Neuer's goal as seven or eight opponents stood behind them rubbing their eyes as if they'd just awoken from a really surreal dream about being played off the park by Algeria.
Neuer, redoubtable fellow that he is, took matters into his own hands and decided to play in three different positions at once, none of which were goalkeeper. A more cautious man would have stayed in his box. Neuer rode out to the gates to break the siege himself.
The introduction of Andre Schurrle made something of a difference, but now Germany were just getting the ball in the final third and then challenging themselves to find new and ever more inventive ways of messing up. The highlight of this rather odd ambition was a complicated free-kick routine that saw Bastian Schweinsteiger run in circles while Thomas Muller fell flat on his face.
Germany eventually broke the deadlock, as Germany inevitably do, but Low will be horrified at the level of performance, not least because their opponents in the quarterfinals, France, look unlikely to implode this summer and might actually be quite good.
As for Algeria, they now have to deal with the hair-ruffling and back-patting of the watching world, when they know deep down that they had more than enough chances to actually win this.
France's 2-0 win over Nigeria set up this European local derby and confirmed that under Didier Deschamps, they're a very different side to the rabble we saw this time four years ago. As you'll doubtless recall, the French thoroughly stank out the 2010 World Cup, their one achievement of note being that they were the only team who made England look good. How things change.
Deschamps has been praised for leaving out Samir Nasri, a decision apparently based on the opinion that the Manchester City man is a moaning, whining and thoroughly unpleasant toe-rag who would make a few weeks in Brazil as comfortable as root canal surgery. But when you look at the energy, determination and sheer dynamism of the French midfield, it's hard to see where he would have fitted in anyway.
France are a proper team now. They're tactically versatile, they have great strength in depth, and for once they don't look so militant that they'll down tools and go on strike if someone looks at them funny. If Germany play against them as they did against Algeria, the French will be in the last four.
This blog tends to nod politely at those who believe Luis Suarez should be banned from football forever, locked in a crate and kicked into the Atlantic Ocean, because it's always found the whole affair far too funny to actually take seriously. More levity entered our lives on Monday when the peckish one released a statement that appeared to be an apology and an acknowledgment of foul play, but was actually nothing of the sort.
"The truth is," said Suarez with no trace of irony, "that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me."
Yes, Luis. That's because you bit him.
Had Suarez simply apologised properly at the time, we'd probably have all moved on now. It's not like we've been short of distractions. But the use of the word 'colleague' and the phrase 'suffered with me' are just too good to ignore.
But on a serious note, m'okay, it's worth wondering why Suarez has made this statement now. What's his motivation? Could it be that a certain club that sees itself as more than a club needs to be placated before it gets its wallet out? Heaven forbid.