Pride and relief were etched on to the faces of two of Germany’s match-winners at the Estadio Beira-Rio on Monday evening in the wake of their dramatic Round of 16 triumph over a strong Algeria side. Manuel Neuer and Andre Schurrle had each played a key part in securing a 2-1 extra-time victory to rubberstamp the three-time World Cup winners’ place in the quarter-finals at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
The duo normally operate at opposite ends of the pitch but after the final whistle they were not only united in being the most sought-after interviewees among the media throng, but also by shared emotions. Relieved as they were to have contributed to Germany’s progression into the last right, there was also an underlying conviction that the side is a force to be reckoned with.
Huge impact *“We all know that Manuel’s the best goalkeeper in the world,” a grinning Schurrle told *FIFA.com. “He showed that again today in an impressive manner. He dealt with every through ball and saved everything that went his way. He’s simply a great guy.”
Schurrle himself was instrumental in securing the win by breaking the deadlock just moments into extra time when he deftly converted Thomas Muller’s cross. Despite having only had a bit-part role for Germany in the group stage, where the Chelsea attacker was handed just 28 minutes of on-field action, Schurrle brought far greater impetus to the team when he was introduced at half-time against Algeria.
*Selection headache *The 23-year-old arrived in Brazil brimming with confidence and with his sights set on making his mark on the tournament, an objective he has now undoubtedly fulfilled. Coach Joachim Low will have looked on in delight as another of his attacking options hit top form when it mattered most.
The same can be said of Neuer, who dashed out of his penalty area to clear Germany’s lines half a dozen times, either with his feet, his head or with a sliding tackle to deny the fleet-footed Algerian forwards. Indeed, the 28-year-old’s sweeper-like performance was unquestionably just as important a factor in booking Germany’s quarter-final ticket as Schurrle’s opening goal.
Neuer outstanding“Manuel had a fantastic game,” said Andreas Kopke, himself a former top-class custodian and Germany’s current goalkeeping coach. “His involvement and anticipation were vital today. He enjoys playing that way and you can see that out on the pitch. Nobody on the touchline is nervous watching him on the ball because we know he knows what he’s doing. He was superb.”
For his part, Neuer was somewhat bemused as to why his excursions out of the area were generating so much attention. “It’s not like I always stay in the six-yard box,” the Bayern Munich stopper said. “I always position myself to be able to help out my back four and to clear through balls. That’s the way I play. It’s important that the defence know I’m there. It’s a matter of trust and those sorts of things have become second nature to me and the defenders.”
Having won the race to be fit in time for the tournament after overcome a shoulder injury sustained shortly before the World Cup, Neuer’s display left no doubt that he is back at the peak of his powers. “His words carry a lot of weight in the team,” Kopke told FIFA.com. “Manuel’s unbelievably important to us, which is why we’re absolutely delighted he recovered from his injury and is fully fit again.”