By Erik Kirschbaum
SANTO ANDRE, Brazil, July 1 (Reuters) - Manuel Neuer, the latest in a long line of outstanding German goalkeepers, took the plaudits on Tuesday after almost single-handedly keeping the Germans' wobbly defence together in a 2-1 extra-time win over Algeria in the World Cup last 16.
In arguably his best performance for his country, Neuer stopped seven Algeria shots and defused a number of dangerous counter-attacks playing like a sweeper with an astonishing 19 touches of the ball outside the penalty area and 59 in total.
"I didn't change my style of play - I've often played like that for Bayern Munich and the 'Nationalmannschaft'," Neuer told reporters after his charges to the edge of the area and beyond had fans on the edge of their seats around the world.
Although he was already known for his field play, Neuer probably had more sprints out of the area against Algeria than he does in a half season at Bayern.
"I had to play like that because the pitch was wet," said Neuer, one of the world's top goalkeepers. "I had to risk my neck at times. Sure there was a risk but I had to take the chance."
Neuer, like his illustrious Germany predecessors Oliver Kahn, Jens Lehmann, Andreas Koepke and Sepp Maier, has been a stalwart for his country since making his debut in 2009.
They have lost only three of the 49 matches the 28-year-old Neuer has played between the posts, winning 39, and he is hoping to mark his half-century on Friday with victory over France in the quarter-finals.
"I think all that needs to be explained once we've done a reasonable analysis of the (Algeria) match," he said.
"But I don't want to be too critical now. We're in the next round. I think we just need to react more quickly."
German football association (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach got on the PA system of the Germany team plane on the flight back from Porto Alegre to their base in north-eastern Brazil to single out Neuer for special praise.
"I think we can all say a big thanks to our number one today," Niersbach told the team on the plane, according to a DFB statement. "Manu, your performance was absolutely world class. Absolutely world class."
Coach Joachim Loew was also pleased.
"Neuer saved us from a number of very dangerous situations because he came out as a sweeper and cleared the ball at the last-possible second," he said.
"His performance was outstanding and the way he came out to play in the field was great. He didn't have a lot to do on the goal line but he showed how strong he is away from the goal."
Neuer acted as if he did not understand the fuss
"I've always enjoyed playing in an outfield position when I'm just kicking around in my spare time," said Neuer, who in training sessions seems to enjoy running around on the field in kickabouts with team mates.