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June 30. 2014 8:02PM

France, Germany move into quarters


Tim Howard of the U.S. concedes a goal scored by Germany's Thomas Mueller (not pictured) during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Pernambuco arena in Recife June 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

For nearly 80 minutes, little separated France and Nigeria. Possession time, shots, corner kicks, fouls: almost even. Score: dead-even. A draw would be justified, though not possible in the round of 16.

Then the French broke through in an unusual match that had been both back-and-forth and scoreless. Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama, heretofore trustworthy in goal, crept out on a corner. Unable to grasp the ball in mid-flight, he could only tap it — right to the head of Paul Progba, who filled an unguarded net to ignite France’s 2-0 win at the World Cup.

Enyeama had just withstood a flurry of French threats, once with help from midfielder Vincent Moses, who cleared the ball as it hovered over the goal line. Yohan Cabaye pummeled a try off the crossbar.

At that point, the Super Eagles sagged, unable to summon enough energy and motivation to propel them into uncharted territory — the Cup quarterfinals.

In added time, France resorted to a bit of dipsy-doo. Mathieu Valbuena nudged a corner kick only a few feet, collected a return pass and drove baseline as Nigeria looked on, befuddled. Valbuena’s cross to the charging Antoine Griezmann grazed defender Joseph Yobo and plunked in the net for an own goal.

Mostly, the match was end-to-end action, with poor finishing by each side. A combined 21 corner kicks should produce more legitimate chances than what the teams could manage.

An apparent first-half goal by Nigeria was canceled by Mark Geiger, the first American ever to referee a knockout game, for offside. He got through the game without a controversial call.

Germany 2, Algeria 1

Germany was pushed all the way by Algeria on Monday before Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil secured a 2-1 extra-time victory. Germany advanced to the quarterfinals against France.

The North African outsiders played with energy and confidence to regularly expose a static German defense, but in the end the European team’s power and fitness counted.

With the score 0-0 at full-time, substitute Schuerrle flicked in a low-cross from Thomas Mueller. Ozil buried the Algerian dream in the last minute — but in a final moment of drama, Abdelmoumene Djabou grabbed a consolation goal for the brave Algerians just before the final whistle.

The victory extended Germany’s record of reaching at least the quarterfinals in every World Cup it has entered since 1938 and gave the Germans their first win in three attempts against Algeria.

who were playing in the last-16 for the first time.

It also denied Algeria, who famously beat West Germany in a 1982 World Cup group game, revenge for the so-called “Disgrace of Gijon”. After the Algerian victory, West Germany secured a narrow win over Austria in a farcical, half-hearted game which saw both of them go through at Algeria’s expense.

That history weighed heavy on Monday’s clash in Porto Alegre, with Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic saying it would motivate the “Desert Foxes”. For the first half at least, it looked like they might have that revenge.

Germany, playing in all-white, took a long time getting into their stride at the Beira Rio stadium and seemed to lack inspiration, with most of the thrills coming from swift Algerian counter-attacks.

The Germans tried to find Mueller - scorer of nine goals in his nine previous World Cup matches - in early probes but the passes were just too far ahead of him as he ran goal-wards.

Algeria, in an all-green strip, showed just what a threat they posed early on when Islam Slimani broke down the left and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer charged out of the box to cut him off. A few minutes later Sofiane Feghouli cut in nicely from the right but his shot went astray. Slimani hit the net with a diving header from a cross in the 16th minute but was ruled offside.

Algeria always looked dangerous with Faouzi Ghoulam and El Arabi Soudani coming the left-flank. But Germany began to look more purposeful and Ozil had a couple of shots from the left of the box parried by goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi.

Mbolhi began to get busier - Mueller headed wide then a long-range shot from Toni Kroos was batted away by the Algerian goalie only for Mario Goetze to hit the rebound back at him.

In the second half, Germany began to gain ascendancy. Minutes in, Shkodran Mustafi leapt to a cross but Mbolhi stopped the header. A driving shot by captain Philipp Lahm from outside the penalty area was tipped away for a corner.

The Algerians, never ones to shrink from tackles, began to spend more time packing the defence as the Germans pushed up in waves. Their


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