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Schuerrle rescues Germany; Valbuena comes up big
by Paul Kennedy, June 30th, 2014 10:42PM

TAGS:  france, germany, world cup 2014


[WORLD CUP: Three Stars] Germany's depth of youth talent is one of the reasons it was considered one of the favorites to win the World Cup, and 23-year-old sub Andre Schuerrle rescued the Germans in overtime against Algeria, which got a phenomenal game from nomadic goalie Rais M'Bolhi. The win set up a date Friday with France, which has had multiple standouts in its march to the quarterfinals, none bigger than its little man, Mathieu Valbuena.

1. ANDRE SCHUERRLE. The depth of the big European teams is what is keeping them in the World Cup. Klaas Jan Huntelaar came off the bench for Robin van Persie and assisted on the tying goal and scored the winning penalty kick for the Netherlands against Mexico. The insertion of Antoine Griezmann on the left wing turned around France's game against Nigeria.

And Schuerrle was the difference for Germany, which struggled mightily against Algeria in their first meeting since the North Africa team's famous victory at the 1982 World Cup. He scored on backheel flick that to put it ahead in overtime and had the pass that eventually led to Mesut Ozil's goal in the 2-1 win over the Fennecs.

“We’d have preferred to win in 90 minutes, but the Algerians did a good job,” said Schuerrle. “We don’t care how we did it, the main thing is we’re in the quarterfinals.”

2. MATHIEU VALBUENA. Sometimes it takes years for a player to make his mark on his national team.

Valbuena, 29, was on the French team that was a World Cup embarrassment in South Africa four years ago -- he played one game, against Mexico, but admits he did not do himself justice -- and he went to Euro 2012 two years and did not even play a minute. The 5-foot-6 winger thought he might not ever get his chance with the Bleus, but he overcame a poor season at Marseille -- his club since 2006 -- and has been one of the standouts on their march to the quarterfinals

His service on corner kicks decided the Bleus' round-of-16 match against Nigeria, delivering the ball Super Eagles keeper Vincent Enyeama could not handle on Paul Pogba's opening ball and playing the ball in to Griezmann that Joseph Yobo turned into his own goal.

3. RAIS M'BOLHI. M'Bolhi belies the notion that you have to be a star at the club level to play in the World Cup. The 28-year-old M'Bolhi, who is not even a full-time starter at his Bulgarian club CSKA Sofia, started in his second straight World Cup for Algeria.

He shut out England and was seconds away from also holding the USA to a 0-0 tie four years ago, but he had the game of his life on Monday against Germany. He made saves on Toni Kroos and Mario Goetze late in the first half that may be the best double save of the World Cup, and his diving save on Thomas Mueller late in the game sent it to overtime.

Not bad for a player who has never made it in France, where he was born, and struggled during stints in Scotland, Greece and Ukraine before settling in Bulgaria, not exactly known as an outpost for foreign players.

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