For most of the bigwigs in the World Cup field, the appropriate theme song is the old Ringo Starr standard “It Don’t Come Easy.”
The degree of difficulty turned out stunningly high for Germany against Algeria, continuing a tournament theme with projected mismatches. The Germans were dragged kicking (often not very well) and screaming (at each other a few times) into overtime before goals during the first and last few minutes of the extra half-hour salvaged a 2-1 win.
Thomas Mueller dribbled down the left side and dished to halftime substitute Andre Schurrle for the tap-in that untangled the tie. It took that long for Germany, with a 2-to-1 edge on ball possession, to figure out the combination to the lock that bolted down its goal.
When Mesut Ozil batted in a rebound in the 119th minute for Germany’s second score, an elite-eight encounter with France seemed a done deal.
Yet the gallant Algerians, with only two minutes of stoppage time in the second overtime period at their disposal, sent German hearts aflutter with a goal by Abdelmoumene Djabou in the 121st minute and a last-gasp try by Madjid Bougherra that was saved.
France 2, Nigeria 0
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.
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.
GREECE 1, COSTA RICA 1 (AET)
Costa Rica’s magical World Cup journey continued in dramatic fashion on Sunday as Los Ticos advanced to their first- ever quarterfinals after knocking off Greece, 5-3, on penalty kicks after the sides played to a 1-1 draw after extra time at the Arena Pernambuco.
Bryan Ruiz opened the scoring for Costa Rica in the 52nd minute and it looked like it would be enough to see Costa Rica through, but Sokratis Papastathopoulos equalized at the death to send the match to extra time.
Both teams squandered chances in extra time to force penalties. In the shootout, each side converted its first three attempts before Joel Campbell scored Costa Rica’s fourth try.
NETHERLANDS 2, MEXICO 1
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted a penalty kick in stoppage time to lift the Netherlands to a 2-1 comeback win over Mexico in the round of 16 at the World Cup at the Estadio Castelao on Sunday.
A 48th-minute goal from Mexico’s Giovani dos Santos had El Tri on course for their first quarterfinal appearance since 1986.
However, Huntelaar came off the bench with 15 minutes to play and set up the equalizing goal for Wesley Sneijder in the 88th minute before scoring from the spot four minutes into added time after Arjen Robben drew a foul on Mexico’s Rafael Marquez inside the penalty area.
The win moves the Dutch into the quarterfinals on Saturday, where they will face Costa Rica.
BRAZIL 1, CHILE 1 (AET)
Brazil survived a major scare in the round of 16 on Saturday at the World Cup as the team topped Chile, 3-2, in penalty kicks after the two sides finished in a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes at the Estadio Mineiro.
David Luiz put Brazil in front 18 minutes into the game, but Chile leveled the contest through Alexis Sanchez in the 32nd.
Chile nearly won the game at the death when substitute Mauricio Pinilla fired a shot off the crossbar in the 120th minute, but the match was ultimately decided from the penalty spot.
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar saved Chile’s first two attempts, but La Roja stayed in the shootout until the fifth round, when Neymar scored for Brazil and Gonzalo Jara’s attempt struck the post for Chile, sending the hosts to the quarterfinals.
COLOMBIA 2, URUGUAY 0
James Rodriguez turned in another dazzling performance at the World Cup on Saturday, scoring a pair of goals to lead Colombia to a 2-0 win over Uruguay in the round of 16 at the Maracana.
The result sees Colombia reach the quarterfinals at a World Cup for the first time, where the team will face Brazil on July 4 after the host nation topped Chile in a shootout, 3-2, to advance.
Rodriguez has been one of the players of the tournament so far, entering this match with three goals and three assists in three group-stage contests. And he scored a fantastic opening goal in the 28th minute on Saturday to put Colombia in front before adding another five minutes after the interval, allowing him to surge into the lead in the race for the Golden Boot.