Germany 'confused,' Low 'reckless'
Germany head coach Joachim Low and most of his players came in for heavy criticism from their country's media despite reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup on Monday.
Manuel Neuer and Andre Schurrle were praised for their performances in the win over Algeria in Porto Alegre, which went to extra time before goals from substitute Schurrle and Mesut Ozil saw Die Nationalmannschaft sealed a 2-1 win to book a place against France in Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium on Friday.
"Escaped with no more than a fright," Frankfurter Rundschau said in its headline early on Tuesday, summing up the mood of many fans in Germany, before criticising Low's team selection.
"Joachim Low made a ludicrously wrong decision ahead of the scare against Algeria, and it was nearly as heavy as two years ago against Italy [in their defeat in the semifinals of Euro 2012]. Skohdran Mustafi should have never made the first XI," the paper commented. Playing the 22-year-old was "reckless," the paper wrote and asked how the "inexplicable decision" was made, though added that Low was at least rescued by his substitutions.
"The end was near," broadsheet FAZ declared in its match report, also questioning Low's decision to replace centre-back Mats Hummels, who missed the match with a cold, with Mustafi .The Sampdoria defender, just like left-back Benedikt Howedes "was stretched too thin," but "the players in the middle did not have a much better day."
In another piece the same paper praised keeper goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who often had to come racing off his line to deal with the Algerian's attacking threat.
"It could have gone into another direction. That this was not case was down to one person in particular. Manuel Neuer. The keeper had to risk everything running out of the box more often than usually to prevent something much worse," FAZ wrote.
"Looking at how they played, somehow you could not deny the impression that the whole team was down with a fever," Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel said, referring to Hummels' absence. "Or how they hadn't played for one half. They were confused and disoriented. It was a bad relapse into long forgotten Rumpelfussball (basic, 'rumble' football) days, even when they played with the heel."
The paper also laid into the defence, but also noted that Algeria "showed that the midfield runs into difficulties when the opponent attacks them with aggressive pressing" after the African side created plenty of first-half opportunities.
"And they were also not able to create any chances," the paper commented, before praising Schurrle, who "at least partially revived the Germany match."
In a story headlined "Super-sub Schurrle saves Germany" Dortmund-based Ruhr Nachrichten hit out at Joachim Low for sticking to the centre-back four in defence and lamented Germany's "downright impudence" during the first half.
"Germany has averted World Cup elimination, or should you say: Adjourned? The performance was everything, but certainly not title winning," the paper commented.
"Schurrle strong, Neuer top -- the rest a disgrace," the tabloid Bild said. "It was the weakest World Cup performance, and moreover one of the weakest in the Low era," Bild commented. "Fortunately we'll stay in the World Cup, at least for three more days."
The Algerian media were united in their admiration for their team's heroic efforts in all but keeping Germany at bay in Porto Alegre.
The prematch talk had been of Les Fennecs repeating their nation's glorious 1982 World Cup triumph over West Germany in Spain. Though the scoreline in Brazil was the same, fortunes were reversed, a fact which did not prevent the North African nation's press heaping praise on the players.
Under the headline "We made Germany tremble," Competition.dz noted Germany had avenged their loss in Gijon, but also acknowledged that Vahid Halilhodzic's men had come close to once again shocking the football world.
"The team was capable of creating a sensation in Porto Alegre in qualifying for the quarterfinals. Vahid Halilhodzic had declared his team would play without any complex against Germany, words confirmed during the match when the national team never looked ridiculous against a side that this time took them seriously."
DZ Foot added: "The Greens produced a world-class match. There are no regrets, though, Algeria has a team for the future."
The match would not have been quite so gripping had Algeria goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi not proven to be in such sparkling form. The CSKA Sofia man stopped 10 attempts on goal, earning himself Man of the Match plaudits from FIFA in the process.
"Heroic since the start of the World Cup, Rais M'Bolhi was so again yesterday evening against Germany," DZ Foot added. "If Algeria pushed the Nationalmannschaft to extra-time, it was thanks in large part to their last line of defence, who was once again excellent."
M'Bolhi should provide a solid foundation for the team to now build on their success in Brazil with qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations beginning in the autumn. Christian Gourcuff will reportedly be the man in charge when the three-team group stage gets underway in early September with Halilhodzic ending his three-year stint in valiant defeat.
"In tears, Halilhodzic says goodbye to Algeria" was the top story on Le Buteur's website accompanied by a picture of a disconsolate Halilhodzic. "While his assistants went onto the pitch to boost the morale of the players and help them up, Halilhodzic stood alone next to the bench, tears in his eyes. Seeing the scene, certain players went to help him, but there was nothing to be done. The coach was inconsolable."
The former Paris Saint-Germain and Dinamo Zagreb boss will leave a promising legacy to his successor, however, having turned Algeria into a competitive side by putting his faith in young, home-grown talent.
ESPN FC's France correspondent Ian Holyman contributed to this report