Almost everyone is familiar with the infamous incident from 1982 involving West Germany, Austria and Algeria. But this article isn’t about that, so I’ll just get down to the bottom line. The last group game of their group between West Germany and Austria posed the following situation: If West Germany won by a one or two goal margin, they would go through with Austria. A bigger West German victory, a tie, or an Austrian victory would send Algeria through at the expense of one of them. And what ended up happening, you ask? The Germans scored a goal in the 10th minute, and Austria and Germany proceeded to play out a ‘non-attacking’ 80 minutes. This injustice prompted FIFA to revise its group game policy to make sure that the last games of every group would be played simultaneously, to avoid such collusion in the future.
For their part, the Algerian team were humility personified. They claimed they held no animosity towards the Germans and Austrians; they were just proud of the fact that their exploits had prompted a change in the World Cup Group Stage structure. However, one wouldn’t be mistaken if one were to assume that this fixture has given rise to an additional dose of the “do-or-die” attitude in the bosom of every passionate Algerian fan.
The German team is expected to undergo some significant changes, as compared to the lineup they adopted for the group stage. Schweinsteiger is expected to start this game at the expense of Khedira, considering the effect he had after coming on as a sub against Ghana, and starting the game against the USA. The rest of the team will be largely unchanged. This is what we expect the lineup to look like:
After experimenting with their lineup for all three Group Stage games, especially in defense, Algeria seem to have zeroed in on a comfortable combination in their last group game against Russia, and considering the fact that no major injuries have been reported from their camp, they will be expected to stick with the same lineup:
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this team is that there is no main ‘target man’. Each of the four attacking players in that formation have raked up atleast one goal in the group stage (striker Slimani has two). This gives the Algerian team a lot of attacking options, especially with the quick feet and footballing intelligence of Feghouli. Howedes is not a natural left back, and even though he’s been consistent throughout the group stage, his unfamiliarity with that position was apparent in small glimpses against Portugal and Ghana. Feghouli’s pace will certainly test Howedes, making that right-wing battle a real lip-smacking one for the neutrals.
One would expect the midfield battle to be a fairly uneven contest in favor of the Germans, but this World Cup has had more than its share of surprises, especially when trying to analyse games from a strategic and tactical perspective (Spain vs The Netherlands, anyone?), so it would be foolish of me to assure my readers at this stage that Schweinsteiger and Lahm will effectively dominate play in the middle of the park.
Will Algeria be able to exact its revenge? Or will the Germans make a neat job of it, as everyone expects them to? Regardless of the events that transpired 32 years ago, this promises to be an exciting fixture. Only time will tell.