Germany coach Joachim Low says now is the time for his side to show their true value while warning against under-estimating their last-16 opponents Algeria. With the likes of Spain, Italy, Portugal and England eliminated in the group stages, Low feels his side have a real opportunity of going all the way to the World Cup final, but their first hurdle in the knockout stages is not to be taken lightly.
"Personally, I cannot remember a group stage in which so many of the favourites were knocked out," he said. "But tournaments are marathons, not a 100 metre sprint. Many nations in the past have won their first three games, and then lost their fourth. We've seen it all before. A team's got to be able to raise their game all the time. If you can manage that, then that's a masterstroke."
Germany are set to do that with Low admitting there is still plenty of margin for improvement. "There's been lots of light, but also plenty of shadows; some good things, but also things which didn't work," he said. "We won our group, which was our primary objective, so we are happy, but we are also self-critical and we know that we can play better. We've not reached our limit yet, and now the knockout phase begins, the decisive games are here."
Germany play Algeria in their round of 16 game on Monday and Low is keen to stress that his side are up against good opposition. "If anybody thinks or believes - and I think this is a feeling among the general public - that Algeria are easy opponents and that we can already start thinking of the next round, then they're making a huge mistake," Low warned.
We've not reached our limit yet, and now the knockout phase begins, the decisive games are here
"We must remain focused and on our toes because any complacency will be punished. I took a look at Algeria yesterday for an hour and I know we're up against a very compact side who run a lot and are aggressive. I've rarely seen a team defend so vehemently, but still attack with purpose. Their whole country is euphoric, so we're up against a strong opponents."
Low said that Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski will not feature on Monday due to a muscular problem, but that he would be available for selection again "for our next game - should we get through". Jerome Boateng was also treading lightly in training, but he will be available, Low said.