Germany and Sweden both came into Tuesday night's match in Berlin with a perfect record and vying for the top spot in Group C. Germany went four goals up and looked like sure winners. But appearances were deceiving.
Germany barreled into the match on the back of a 6-1 thrashing of Ireland last Friday, while the Swedes had barely scraped by the Faroe Islands. Therefore, fans in the German capital were confident that the home side would get a win to give them a commanding lead in their group.
And Germany were all over Sweden right from the start. Thomas Müller was very unlucky not to get a goal in minute 2, when his back-heel was blocked and his follow-up hit the post.
Only six minutes later, Germany got on the scoreboard. Marco Reus, who can do no wrong in a Germany kit, pulled the ball back for Miroslav Klose who fired it into the top of the net. It was a just reward, as the hosts were dominating possession and pushing the ball well up both flanks.
Germany combined at will and went up 2-0 after a quarter of an hour. Again it was Reus finding Klose from a bit closer range this time. Sweden's defense wasn't bad, but Germany simply picked them apart. Sweden looked as though they had been struck in the collective forehead with a very large hammer.
Germany keep up pressure
Those goals meant Klose was only one goal shy of legendary striker Gerd "the Bomber" Müller on the list of the German national team's all-time leading goal-scorers.
Germany then slowed the tempo somewhat, but still created danger when they did venture forward. Meanwhile, Sweden had little luck getting the ball to superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Instead it was Germany's big man, Per Mertesacker, putting the game seemingly beyond reach in a minute 40. Thomas Müller showed an excellent eye, heading the ball back for the defender to fire in a half-volley. It was only Mertesacker's second goal in his long international career.
Sweden looked mighty happy when the half-time whistle blew. In the locker rooms, the only open questions were: Would Sweden switch into damage-control mode, and would Germany push to try to get Klose into the history books?
Sweden brought on two offensive substitutions, but the first chance of the second half belonged to Müller after a fabulous combination sprung him one-on-one with the Swedish keeper. Andreas Isaksson was having a good evening - despite the scoreline - and denied the Bayern midfielder.
Germany's ability to advance the ball up the heart of Sweden's defense spoke volumes. And five minutes later, it was Müller feeding playmaker Mesut Özil who clinically whacked the ball home.
Tellingly, it was another goal scored on a ball that was pulled back. Germany coach Joachim Löw had to be happy with his team's unselfishness.
But not with its defense. The Nationalelf's concentration lapsed, and an unmarked Ibrahimovic made them pay, heading past a helpless Manuel Neuer with a half-hour left on the clock.
And a mere three minutes later, defender Mikael Lustig poked home after a bad mistake by defender Holger Badstuber. The score was 4-2, and Germany were looking a wee bit nervous.
With fifteen minutes to go, it was most definitely game on. Johan Elmander found space in the middle of the penalty area and slotted home to bring the Swedes within a goal. Klose's pursuit of the record was long forgotten. Germany, who had never blown a four-goal advantage, were on the verge of a historic collapse.
Five minutes from time, Sweden had a massive chance. Neuer sprinted off his line but failed to control the ball. Substitute Tobias Sana blasted the ball miles over an empty Germany goal, as a capacity crowd in Berlin nearly fainted.
And Sweden were rewarded for their energy with a last-second equalizer. Rasmus Elm blasted home the eighth goal of the evening after what looked to be a foul by Ibrahimovic in the box. The goal stood, however, and Germany had set a negative historical record. Germany captain Philipp Lahm was beside himself.
"If you're 4-0 up, and the match ends 4-4, you've done a lot of things wrong," Lahm said after the match. "We conceded one and then the second, and then everything fell apart."
His coach was even more dumbfounded.
"At the moment, ten minutes after the match, it's impossible for me to see why we made so many mistakes," a visibly shocked Joachim Löw said.
The one consolation is that Germany head into the winter break leading Group C with ten points. But they'll be a lot of head-scratching and soul-searching in the winter months, after the Nationalelf suffered the sort of collapse no one would have considered possible.