After employing an attacking 4-2-3-1 in consecutive matches, Algeria head coach Vahid Halilhodzic reverted to a 4-3-3 against Germany on Monday night. He first launched the counterattacking tactic versus Belgium in Algeria's opening fixture. On that day Les Fennecs struggled to transition out of a low block and threaten Belgium, but on Monday night they carried Halilhodzic's instructions out to a tee.
The game plan was to recover possession and fire through passes behind a relatively high German defensive line. Algeria attempted 63 long passes to Germany's 43. Most were low, drilled passes that nestled in behind the German centre-halves, causing pandemonium. In the first stages of the match Islam Slimani was beating Jerome Boateng and Per Mertesacker in quick transitions. Were it not for the sweeper-keeper antics of Manuel Neuer, Algeria might have notched an early lead.
Algeria also kept the ball much better than they did against Belgium and that helped. The North Africans nearly doubled the amount of shots and passes made and troubled Neuer much more than they did Belgium stopper Thibaut Courtois.
Same old errors haunt Algeria
In each of their four matches, Algeria have dropped physically and have struggled to defend crosses. Against Germany, both of those traits were woefully exposed. Warning shots were fired when Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger both peppered Rais M'Bolhi's net with headed efforts. In the embryonic states of extra time, Andre Schurrle latched onto a Muller cross and back-heeled Germany into the lead.
For the remaining 30 minutes, Germany kept the ball masterfully as Algerian players had exhausted their depleted stores of energy. Only two more attempts were generated, and though one was converted, it was too little, too late for Halilhodzic's warriors.
Magisterial Rais M'Bolhi
He has conceded seven goals in four matches, but M'Bolhi leaves Brazil with his head held high. Through the tournament the CSKA Sofia goalkeeper kept his side in contention as he frustrated each and every opponent Les Fennecs played. His miraculous saves were the necessary foundation for Algeria to progress as far as it did.
Against Germany, M'Bolhi made 10 saves -- more than any other keeper at these World Cup finals. He has now played six World Cup matches, and whether it was shutting out England four years ago, or thwarting every last effort against Germany on Monday night, he has never disappointed.
A move to a bigger European club is the next step for the man who was invited to trial at Manchester United in 2009. That trial was inconclusive, but if M'Bolhi continues to perform as he has on the international stage, his agent will be receiving plenty of phone calls. Though he has already written his name into Algerian footballing folklore, there is plenty more to come from the man Algerian fans have dubbed, "El Presidente."