Germany defeated Sweden 2-1 in Sochi courtesy of a 95thminute goal from Toni Kroos. The win gives Die Nationalmannschaft a great chance to make the last 16 in Russia when all looked lost.
Here are a few talking points after a thrilling encounter.
Cool Toni Kroos gets it done
The 28-year-old has been a crucial component of Germany’s success under Joachim Löw. Many Bayern Munich supporters haven’t forgiven him for abandoning the Bavarian powerhouse and chasing success at Real Madrid, but his bulging trophy cabinet is proof what a fantastic player he is.
Kroos was man-marked by Mexico and unable to impose himself on the game despite taking six shots. Against Sweden he gave the ball away before Ola Toivonen’s opener and knew if Germany failed to win there would be criticism coming his way.
He didn’t have a great game but it was a big decision to take on the 95th minute strike that flew into the top corner. He fired another shot post match, saying: “One had the feeling that a relatively large number of people in Germany would have been happy if we had gone out.”
A nation comes back to life
It couldn’t happen could it? Germany’s worst World Cup in 80 years? The fourth reigning champion in the past five Cups to be eliminated in the group stage? Löw’s record of reaching at least the semi-finals in six major tournaments ends here?
The 1-0 loss against Mexico revealed some significant deficiencies in this squad but it would all be put right against Sweden. Faith in the national team was surely at an all-time low however at 1-1 in the 95th minute, Germany seconds away from a draw that would put their World Cup destiny in Sweden’s hands.
Toni Kroos’ sweet strike resuscitated 80 million people that have come to expect success. It was a reminder how quickly fortunes can change and the fine line between heartbreak and ecstasy.
Boateng lost at sea
Jérôme Boateng was expected to lead by example with Mats Hummels injured and Antonio Rüdiger starting. Instead we saw a performance that was reminiscent of David Luiz in Brazil’s 7-1 thrashing at the 2014 World Cup.
Boateng’s positional play and nonchalant attitude was at odds with his reputation and ability. He was fortunate not to give away a penalty, was guilty of diving into challenges and making forward runs before giving away cheap possession.
Not to mention getting sent off in the 82ndminute. Boateng was quick to criticise after the Mexico defeat but should focus on his own performance after a shocker against Sweden. One wonders if his attitude could be part of a wider problem in the German camp.
Marvellous Marco Reus
Reus had dreadful luck with injuries ruling him out of Germany’s last two major tournaments. His first World Cup start couldn’t have been much better, a constant threat throughout, scoring the equaliser and teeing up Kroos for the winner.
His versatility up front and positional play is sensational, not to mention his knack of providing and scoring goals. He is a class above Draxler and arguably all of Germany’s attackers.
Fingers crossed he can stay on the pitch and show us his talent, not only throughout the World Cup but next season for Borussia Dortmund.
Germany and Sweden have provided three thrillers in a row starting in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Die Nationalmannschaft led 4-0 in Berlin but Sweden came back in a memorable 4-4 draw.
In the second leg the Swedes took a 2-0 lead in Stockholm before going down 5-3. We didn’t have eight goals in Sochi but there was just as much drama and excitement.
Löw still has work to do
The German boss made four changes to the starting XI against Sweden. Mesut Özil was dropped for the first time since making his debut at the 2010 World Cup. Rüdiger battled hard, Hector showed his class, Rudy was unfortunately injured early on and Reus was arguably man-of-the-match.
Julian Brandt played well off the bench and has hit the woodwork in consecutive games. Mario Gomez was dangerous up front. Julian Draxler didn’t make much impact alongside Thomas Müller, Hummels is injured and Boateng is supended.
All that adds up to big decisions having to be made by Löw. South Korea should be an easy win, but as we have seen throughout this World Cup nothing can be taken for granted.
By Matthew Marshall.