Toni Kroos′ curler rescues Germany at the last against Sweden | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW | 23.06.2018

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Toni Kroos' curler rescues Germany at the last against Sweden

Germany have pulled their feet out of the fire in Sochi, scoring the decisive goal deep into stoppage time to ensure they remain masters of their own destiny in the World Cup group stages.

Germany 2 – 1 Sweden
(Reus 48', Kroos 90+5' – Toivonen 32')

Toni Kroos delivered a last-gasp free kick to rescue Germany in Sochi, curling the ball into the top corner from an acute angle. That goal averted a draw, a result that would have put Germany's World Cup fate out of their hands.

Kroos' spectacular finish offers redemption, though, and means that beating South Korea in their last game would guarantee them a spot in the last 16.

Fast start, sudden slip

Having promised to make a statement after losing to Mexico, Germany started the game like scalded cats, creating a host of chances and pinning Sweden back in the opening minutes. At one point, around 10 minutes in, Germany had completed 122 passes, versus just six on Sweden's side.

Julian Draxler went close twice, as did Marco Reus moments later in this strong passage of play.  But the early pressure did not pay, and once again, Germany looked susceptible even to the simplest counterattacks. Neuer was forced into an excellent save one-on-one against striker Marcus Berg, and minutes later, it was Jerome Boateng putting his body on the line to block a Berg shot.

Sweden's third meaningful counterattack, after Toni Kroos conceded possession in his own half, provided the shock goal that threatened to eliminate Germany. Ola Toivonen controlled the decisive ball with his chest and lobbed Neuer from close in, despite pressure from Boateng.

Suddenly, Germany were staring their first ever group-stage World Cup exit in the face.

Russland WM 2018 Deutschland gegen Schweden

The difference between Toni Kroos' half-time and full-time body language was like night and day

Reus and Kroos to the rescue

Veteran striker Mario Gomez was introduced at half time, replacing Julian Draxler, as Joachim Löw desperately sought goals. Yet the equalizer, moments after the restart, came from attacking midfield.

Marco Reus scored exactly the kind of scrappy goal a team in trouble needs, fortunately converting with an awkward contact off his left knee.

Russland WM 2018 Deutschland gegen Schweden

Reus celebrates his first goal at a World Cup, which came from his first shot on target.

Jerome Boateng's second yellow card late in the game provides yet another headache for Germany in their final group game against South Korea. He will be suspended.

Playing with 10 men for the last 10 minutes, Germany kept pushing forward. Substitute Julian Brandt hit the post twice in the closing minutes, and Timo Werner missed an easy chance to follow up with a rebound from Brandt's second near-miss.

In the fifth minute of stoppage time, it looked like Germany would be forced to cross a free kick from a very tight angle. But instead, Kroos laid it off short to Reus, improving the angle slightly. Reus tee'd the ball up and Kroos curled it beautifully out of the reach of Sweden's keeper and into the top corner. 

It might not have been easy in Sochi on Saturday, but Germany's World Cup isn't over just yet. 

As it happened:

FT Germany 2-1 Sweden — It's all over, Germany are still alive in the World Cup! Kroos saves Die Mannschaft in the dying seconds with a stunning set-piece. What a finish, and Germany breathe again! 

90'+5 GOAL! Germany 2-1 Sweden — Kroos scores for Germany at the death! He plays a short free-kick with Reus and then whips a stunning shot inside the far post. It's a wonderful goal by a wonderful player, who keeps Germany in the World Cup! 

90'+2 Brandt hits the post! It's just not Germany's night (or tournament). The Leverkusen forward lets fly from distance and the ball crashes back off the post. It comes out to Werner, but too quickly for him to get a shot away.

90' There will be five added minutes. Germany need a goal to keep their World Cup destiny in their own hands. 

89' Germany have never failed to win their first two group games before, but it's looking like they will pick up that particular record tonight. Unless they can pull a rabbit out of the hat in the closing moments. 

87' Gomez goes close! The Stuttgart striker sends a thumping header at goal, but Olsen reacts with a superb one-handed tip over the bar. Fabulous save as we inch towards stoppage time. 

83' Neuer forced to punch away under pressure at the resulting free-kick. Sweden might not be done yet...

82' Jerome Boateng sent off! Things are getting worse for Germany, who lose their first choice center back for a second bookable offence. He goes through the back of Berg in a relatively harmless area of the field and Germany are down to ten men. And of course Boateng will now miss the game against South Korea, which is increasinlgy looking like it will be Germany's last at this World Cup.

78' As we edge closer to full time, it's worth remembering that Sweden would only need a draw against Mexico in their final game to go through. And given that Mexico are already through, that would leave Germany on the brink of a first round exit. 

75' Forsberg goes for goal with a stinging effort, but Neuer wasn't going to be beaten from that far out. 

72' Almost an own goal by Lindelof as he stabs clear another dangerous cross by Werner, who has been much better in the second half since moving out to the left, the position occupied by Draxler in the first half.

70' Germany seem to be in the process of grinding Sweden down here. If Germany win this game, it will be because Sweden are exhausted more than anything else. Sweden need to get hold of the ball., or make a change. 

67' Gomez sends the ball over from close range, but he was offside anyway, much to his relief.

64' Kroos has a go from distance and then Gomez goes close. it's wave after wave from the Germans at the moment. 

61' Desperately close to a second for Reus, but he can't organize his feet in time to make contact with Kimmich's dangerous low cross from the right. Was almost Germany's savior again there, Reus. 

58' It's end-to-end stuff at the moment. Both sides feel they can finish the other off.

56' Chance for Germany! Werner, who looks far more comfortable on the left, drives into the box again and this time his cross is almost seized on by Hector, whose shot is saved. Hector a real outlet for Germany when he takes a gamble and goes forward.

53' Ekdal is booked for cutting down Müller.

51' Müller goes close with a glancing header from Kroos' free-kick. Germany seem completely re-energised. Whatever Joachim Löw said at half-time has worked, although Germany still need a win to give themselves a good chance of going through.

50' Germany are suddenly full of life and look more like the Germany we are used to seeing. 

49' Kroos goes close, pulling his low shot just wide from the edge of the box. Almost two goals in as many minutes for the Germans.

48' GOAL! Germany 1-1 Sweden — Reus for Germany! Kroos finds Werner, who  drives down the left and drills a low cross into the box that flicks off the toe of Gomez and is put in by Reus. Germany are alive!

46' SECOND HALF. We're back underway and Germany have made another change, with Mario Gomez on for Julian Draxler.

HT Germany 0-1 Sweden — Germany are 45 minutes away from going out of the World Cup. Germany haven't been eliminated at this stage of tournament since 1938, and then they were not the tour de force they are nowadays. Sweden deserve to be ahead through Toivonen's fine goal. Are we witnessing the end of the Joachim Löw era?

45' Sweden chance again! Larsson's free-kick finds Berg, who heads towards goal but Neuer plucks it from the air again. Fantastic save — another one — and you have to say Neuer as kept Germany in this game. 

44' Boateng has a go from 20 yards, but it drifts wide. Germany look out of ideas and it's not even galf time.

41' Chance for Sweden, who launch a swift counter-attack down the left through Forsberg. The ball is switched to Claesson, who affords Germany some time to readjust with a bad touch and then fires over. That could and possibly should have been a second for the Swedes. 

38' Gündogan has offered a little something since coming on. He drills a shot from distance that deflects on its way through, and Olsen shows great reactions to reach it and palm it away.

37' Kimmich gets into a good position, but his cross drifts straight out of play. It's as if Germany have forgotten how to play football.

34' Germany all over the place. Defense being run ragged, game passing the midfield by, and attack is impotent. Big, big problems for Germany. The goal hadn't exactly been coming, but the Swedes have been growing in confidence.

32' GOAL! Germany 0-1 Sweden — Toivonen scores for Sweden! It's a wonderful goal by Toivonen, who takes the ball on his chest and, under pressure from Rüdiger, beautifully lifts it over Neuer. Wow.

29' Sweden put Germany under a litte bit of pressure with a couple of corners, but Werner gets it clear. Rudy is looking very down and doesn't appear to be able to continue. A blow for him, and he is replaced by Gündogan. 

26' Speaking of stemming the bleeding, Sweden appear to have got to grips with Germany now after that fast start by the defending champions. 

23' Blood is streaming from Rudy’s nose and he is forced off to get that dealt with. He was caught accidentally by Toivonen.

20' Reus rolls a throughball into the path of Müller but Ekdal forms a human brick wall to shield it from the Bayern Munich man. 

18' Sweden launch the ball into the Germany box. Lustig knocks it down for Berg, whose volley is blocked by Boateng.

Russland WM 2018 Deutschland gegen Schweden

Sweden could have been awarded a penalty when Jerome Boateng appeared to bring down Sweden's Marcus Berg.

15' Germany almost permanently camped in the Sweden half, but they're having to be patient as they try to break them down. Germany trying a bit too hard at the moment as they anxiously try to get that first goal.

13' Huge save by Neuer! Rüdiger gives the ball away and Berg goes clean through but Neuer stands up to make a gigantic stop. Germany absolutely torn open there, and they look nervous at the back. A definite hint of a push by Boateng on Berg too...

10' Germany close again! This time Reus gets to the byline and tries to cut it back to Werner in the six yard box, but Lindelof gets across to cut it out. 

8' Draxler goes close! The Paris Saint-Germain forward seems to get caught in two minds and ends up poking the ball narrowly wide of the far post. Draxler has been bright in the early stages.

6' Germany have Sweden pinned back here.

4' A positive start by Germany against a Sweden side who have stacked nine or maybe even ten men behind the ball.

Russland WM 2018 Deutschland gegen Schweden

Draxler's shot was cleared off the line in the third minute.

3' Germany chance! Kimmich seizes on some uncertain Sweden defending and his cutback finds Draxler, whose shot is cleared off the line. Hector's shot was also blocked on the follow up.

2' Joachim Löw looks tense on the touchline. It could be a long old night for him. How he'd relish an early goal for Germany.

1' KICK OFF! We're underway in Sochi.

19:55 The players are out and the anthems have been sung. We're ready...

19:50 The players are just coming in from their warm-up, which means kick off is fast approaching. Will Germany get their World Cup defense back on track? Or are we about to witness a World Cup shock of seismic proportions? Almost show time...

19:45  Former Germany striker Kevin Kuranyi is writing a World Cup column for DW throughout the World Cup. He used his first one to call on Joachim Löw to start Marco Reus and Mario Gomez against Sweden. While Gomez remains on the bench, Kuranyi warns that the World Cup could be over much earlier than planned if they're not careful.

Zitattafel Kevin Kuranyi

DW World Cup columnist Kevin Kuranyi

19:40 Thomas Müller: "We have two hard tasks ahead of us in this group, we have to win both games. There is a lot of pressure. Sweden will defend deep. Sometimes you have to play fast to break down the opposing defence. But if you are not patient, this can backfire."

19.35 There has been a lot of soul searching in the Germany camp in the days following their defeat by Mexico (who are virtually into the last 16 following victory over South Korea, by the way). Goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer was pretty honest when he said "we are our own toughest critics and we are disappointed and angry over our performance against Mexico. No one is shying away from responsibility. We talked about the game in the bus, and we talk at every meal. We say our opinion."

More on Germany's reaction in the wake of that shock defeat by Mexico.

Russland WM 2018 Deutschland gegen Schweden

Manuel Neuer admitted Germany lacked bravery, self-understanding and trust, in their opening game.

19:30 There's also mild surprise that Timo Werner has kept his place after an ineffective performance against Mexico. Mario Gomez was tipped by many to take his place as Löw opted for a more physical forward to lead the line, but the coach has kept the faith with the young RB Leipzig striker. For now.

19:25 Sochi has turned into a sea of yellow ahead of this game. Fans of Die Mannschaft are significantly outnumbered by their Swedish counterparts, as our man on the ground, Jonathan Harding, writes: Swedish fans turn Sochi yellow as Germany try to shake off doubts

Russland WM 2018 l Schwedische Fans

Sweden fans have taken over Sochi, where they face Germany on Saturday evening.

19:20 But there is some surprise that Rudy has come in, not least from Germany captain from four years ago, Philipp Lahm. He has expressed his surprise on German TV channel ARD. Many were expecting Leon Goretzka, the man who impressed a year ago in the Confederations Cup, to be the heir to Khedira's throne. Instead, Löw has gone with a more conservative option in Rudy.

19:15 It's a huge decision by Joachim Löw to drop Mesut Özil, who has been an integral part of Löw's Germany team since 2008. Leaving out the Arsenal man and Sami Khedira, who has also been a key player in the Löw years, could herald a changing of the guard if Germany get a positive result tonight, and the men that have replaced them — Reus and Rudy — play well.

19:10 Here are the starting XIs for both sides tonight...

19:05 The teams are in and Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira have been dropped. Sebastian Rudy and Marco Reus come in, with Mats Hummels replaced at the back by Antonio Rüdiger. Some huge calls there by Joachim Löw.

19:00 Hello everyone, and welcome to live coverage of Germany vs. Sweden from Sochi. Quite simply, Germany must win tonight otherwise they will be staring at a first ever first round exit at the World Cup. The stakes are high!