There will be no World Cup blues for Les Bleus this time around. Four years removed from a controversial flameout in South Africa, France sealed a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals in Brazil.
France continued its redemptive run by edging Nigeria 2-0 at Nacional in Brasilia on Monday to advance out of the Round of 16. Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama held France scoreless deep into the second half until midfielder Paul Pogba broke through in the 79th minute with a header on a corner kick.
The second tally came in stoppage time following another France corner kick. After a short kick from the corner, France’s Mathieu Valbuena sent a low cross toward goal. The ball deflected off Nigeria defender Joseph Yobo and into the net.
When it comes to the knockout stages of the World Cup, wins are worth more than style.
That was on full display Monday when Germany labored to a 2-1 extra-time win over an aggressive Algeria side to reach the tournament’s quarterfinals for the ninth consecutive time.
“You don’t have to play fantastic every match,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “You have to win.”
All three goals came in extra time after Algeria dominated for long stretches during the opening 90 minutes. Germany substitute Andre Schuerrle scored in the 92nd minute and Mesut Ozil made it 2-0 in the 120th before substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou pulled one back in injury time for Algeria.
Three-time champion Germany will next face 1998 winner France on Friday at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
“It was a victory of will power,” Loew said. “We had major problems in the first half to organize the way we played. We made simple mistakes, which invited the opponents to start counterattacks.”
Germany finally took the lead when Thomas Mueller provided a cross from the left flank that was slightly behind Schuerrle. The Germany forward dragged his left leg and backheeled the ball into the far corner, leaving goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi with no chance.
With the temperature a chilly 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) and a light rain falling at times, the pace was high at the Estadio Beira-Rio but the goals didn’t come until the end.
“Yes, we had our problems but at the end we were better and had a lot of chances,” Loew said. “The important thing is to advance. … Past champions also did not play well every match. You cannot play fantastic every match of the tournament.”
Ozil thought he had put the result out of reach when he pounded in a rebound after a shot from Schuerrle was cleared off the line by defender Esseid Belkalem, but Djabou volleyed in a minute later to make the last seconds count.
Perhaps inspired by the “Disgrace of Gijon” at the 1982 World Cup, when Germany and Austria supposedly conspired to oust Algeria in the group stage, the northern African nation outmatched Germany’s intensity for long stretches in an entertaining match.
Algeria was playing in the second round of the World Cup for the first time and thought it had taken the lead before a goal from Islam Slimani was waved off for offside in the 17th, one of many opportunities for the Algeria striker.
“We fell just short,” said Rais, who was voted man of the match. “That’s why we’re disappointed, because we think more was possible tonight.”