Reigning world champions Germany dramatically reignited their World Cup campaign with a late winning goal against Sweden at the Fisht Arena on Saturday night.
Toni Kroos thundered a free-kick home in the final stages to steal the three points in the most dramatic fashion. The game did not go the way of the champions for the majority of the game though, as Ola Toivonen gave the Swedes the lead with a great finish in the 32nd minute, before Marco Reus struck an equaliser for the Germans. As Joachim Löw’s men pressed for a winning goal, Jerome Boateng was given two quick-fire yellow cards and his marching orders.
Kroos, though, combined excellently with Marco Reus from a free-kick to steal the most dramatic win and stave off the threat of elimination from the tournament.
As to be expected considering the crucial nature of the game, Germany started at a tremendous tempo. Timo Werner created the first chance as he crossed to Reus. The Borussia Dortmund man aimed for goal only to see his sh0t well-blocked by Sebastian Larsson.
The four-time world champions threatened down the wings in the early stages but Julian Draxler’s brilliant cross evaded everybody.
Sweden’s best chance of a goal in the opening stages was on the counter-attack and Marcus Berg should have done better as he tore down on goal. He managed to get close to Manuel Neuer’s goal but waited too long and Germany cleared, albeit amidst appeals for a penalty from the striker following a challenge from Jerome Boateng.
Toivenen terrifies the Germans
Germany were forced into a change mid-way through the first-half as Sebastian Rudy was withdrawn for İlkay Gündoğan. The alteration did not help as Sweden seized the advantage through Toivonen. The big forward chested down a great looped ball from Viktor Claesson and lofted the ball expertly over Neuer to shock Joachim Löw’s troops.
As Toivonen was the goal-scoring hero at one end, Sweden stopper Robin Olsen was the saviour at the other. The FC Copenhagen man produced a stunning low save to deny İlkay Gündoğan’s low shot before stretching out a paw to stop Thomas Müller on the rebound.
Sweden could have had another in the final seconds of the first-half as Berg connected well with a free-kick but Neuer produced a great save to keep the deficit at one heading into the break.
Swift reaction from the champions
Löw made a desperate change at half-time, drafting in Mario Gomez for Julian Draxler. It appeared to work a treat as Reus netted a crucial equaliser. The forward, playing in his first World Cup, diverted Timo Werner’s great cross into the bottom corner to make the scores even.
Toni Kroos’ teasing free-kick then found the head of Müller but the Bayern man could only nod just wide.
Chances continued to flow for the champions and Werner looked to be the key man. Another of his crosses found Jonas Hector but he could only find the gloves of the Swedish goalkeeper.
Tense final period
Sweden struggled throughout the majority of the second-half as Germany hunted their victory. Werner again spun in behind the Swedish defence and produced a cracking cross. The ball deflected off of Granqvist and looked destined for his own net but Olsen bailed out his defender.
Emil Forsberg found space outside of the box from a corner for one of Sweden’s few opportunities of the second-half. He unleashed a wicked drive that Neuer held well. Werner also spurned a late opportunity as he shot over from inside the area.
Red card drama for the champions but dramatic victory opens up Group F
With only ten minutes left, the Germans were reduced to ten men with Boateng receiving two yellow cards. His first was for a foul on Forsberg, and he soon received his marching orders for a scything challenge on Berg.
Despite that, Gomez appeared to have won the game with a header only for Olsen to tip the ball over with a stunning save. Substitute, Julian Brandt then cracked a great effort off of the post within the closing few minutes.
There chance was to come as they earned a free-kick with only a minute on the clock. Reus and Kroos stood over the ball with the former rolling the ball to the Real Madrid midfielder. He turned and thundered the ball into the top corner to snatch the three points from the jaws of defeat.
As the clichés go, that is why Germany are world champions. Despite a below-par performance, they managed to find the quality to earn the win. They were not brilliant and the Swedes will feel unfortunate that they weren’t able to hold on.
Löw will be furious with Boateng potentially costing his nation’s place at the World Cup, but now the group is wide open with both sides facing must-win matches against Mexico and South Korea next week.
Germany: Neuer (7); Kimmich (7), Rudiger (6), Boateng (5), Hector (6) (Brandt (N/A), 87′); Rudy (6) (Gündoğan (6), 31′), Kroos (8); Reus (7), Müller (6), Draxler (5) (Gomez (6), 46′); Werner (7).
Sweden: Olsen (7); Augustinsson (6), Granqvist (7), Lindelöf (6), Lustig (6); Forsberg (7), Ekdal (7), Larsson (7), Claesson (6) (Durmaz (5), 75′); Berg (7) (Thelin (N/A), 90′), Toivonen (7) (Guidetti (N/A), 78′).
Goals: Toivonen (32′), Reus (48′), Kroos (90+5′)
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
Yellow Cards: Ekdal (52′), Boateng (71′, 82′), Larsson (90+7′)
Red Cards: Boateng (82′)
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