Last-gasp Kroos cracker pulls ten-man Germany from the brink against Sweden

Crunch time. After their opening group phase defeat against Mexico in Moscow, it is make or break for Jögi Low’s men in Sochi against Sweden. One has to go back sixty years to find the last World Cup defeat for the Mannschaft at the hands of the Blågult, but as the opening day proved, record and statistics can sometimes count for nothing.

The position is straightforward for Germany. Win, and their World Cup campaign will be right back on track. Lose, and then they will almost certainly be going home early. Draw, and he final outcome will no longer be in their hands. A win for the Swedes will see them progress to the knockout stage, having already claimed three points after a tight 1-0 win over South Korea courtesy of a second half penalty from skipper Andreas Granqvist.

This is Germany’s 37th meeting with Sweden, in what has been a long history between the two countries. The Scandinavians would hold the upper hand early on, but more recently Germany have been the better team. Since the first meeting in 1911, Germany have registered fifteen wins to Sweden’s thirteen, with eight draws.

In competitive internationals, this is the thirteenth meeting. Germany hold the upper hand with eight victories, three draws and just one defeat. That one defeat would come in the 1958 World Cup on Swedish soil, when Sepp Herberger’s side were subjected to a brutal assault by a hard and uncompromising opponent in Göteborg, with absolutely no help from the Hungarian referee.

Having taken the lead, Germany were then reduced to ten men when Erich Juskowiak finally snapped with the score at 1-1. The Mannschaft would effectively finish the match with nine men when skipper Fritz Walter was incapacitated, and were finally killed off by two late Swedish goals.

Since then, it has been all Germany in the matches that have mattered.

The last tournament meeting was in the World Cup in 2006. Meeting in the round of 16 at the Allianz Arena in Munich, two early goals from Lukas Podolski would settle the issue. It was the Mannschaft’s fourth win on the bounce in tournament final meetings against the Swedes. In Sochi, they will be aiming to push the record out to five.

Sixteen goals have been scored in the last two matches between Germany and Sweden, during the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. In Berlin in October 2012, Germany would blow a 4-0 lead as the Swedes stormed back to grab a share of the spoils. In Stockholm a year later, the home side roared into an early 2-0 lead, only for the Mannschaft to engineer a comeback of their own with André Schürrle scoring a quickfire hat-trick in the second half.

If we get anything close that sort of excitement at the Fisht Olympic Stadium today, we should be in for a treat.

Mexico’s 2-1 win over South Korea earlier in the afternoon means that the Central Americans have one foot in the knockout stage with a six point already guaranteed. It also means that Germany simply have to win to keep their fate in their hands.

After much talk over the past week, the Bundestrainer has rung the changes. Not all the changes some of us may have wanted, but changes all the same. All, to some extent, are surprising. The Maharishi Jogi has truly been to work and waved his mystical hand.

The coach had been under intense media pressure to drop Mesut Özil, and the man who has started every major tournament major since the World Cup in 2010 finds himself on the bench. His replacement is no massive surprise. After making his first appearance at the World Cup off the bench against Mexico, Marco Reus finally gets a start.

The switches means that Reus plays on the left of the midfield and Thomas Müller on the right, with Julian Draxler taking Özil’s position in the centre. Up top, Timo Werner.

Rather than changing his defensive system, Löw has stuck with the Viererkette. The returning Jonas Hector replaces Marvin Plattenhardt at left back, and Antonio Rüdiger is preferred over Niklas Süle to come in for the injured Mats Hummels in the centre of the back four.

The final change sees another expected drop, and another surprising replacement. Sami Khedira is relegated to the bench. No surprise there; his poor show against Mexico had almost demanded it. While many pundits had earmarked one of İlkay Gündoğan or Leon Goretzka to replace the Juventus man, Sebastian Rudy is given his World Cup tournament debut.

It is a warm and muggy evening on the Black Sea coast, and the two teams emerge for the national anthems. The Mannschaft, to a man, are all singing.

1 min. Peep! Sweden get things underway. Germany are in their traditional white/black/white combination, while the Swedes are in a change strip of dark blue shirts, yellow shorts and blue socks. In recent meetings, there has never been a problem with Germany playing in white shirts and Sweden in their usual yellow. It looks like FIFA are continuing with their strange policy on supposedly clashing colours.

2 mins. The Mannschaft have started nicely, and have quickly found a rhythm. Kimmich beats his man and sends a cross into the danger area, and Draxler has the goal at his mercy. On any other day the net would be bulging, but the German number seven hits his shot straight at a man in a blue shirt. It looks like Ludwig Augustinsson. Werner snatches at the rebound, and Sweden clear. We should be ahead here.

3 mins. There is more nice patient buildup and approach play as the men in white recycle the ball. Hector’s shot from the edge of the box is blocked.

6 mins. Sweden break down the centre, and Emil Forsberg shows some good pace before he is closed down by the unlikely combination of Müller and Kimmich.

8 mins. Hector finds Draxler who charges down the left. There is nobody in front of him though, and his cross-cum-shot skids wide of the far post.

9 mins. A lovely ball from Kimmich and well-timed run from Reus, and the Dortmund man’s attempted cross towards Werner is blocked and turned behind by Victor Lindelöf. The resulting corner is taken short, but comes to nothing.

12 mins. Germany have been bossing this game, but a sloppy pass from Rüdiger sees Marcus Berg charge in on the German goal. Boateng closes in on the Swedish striker as Neuer comes off his line to make the block. There are loud protests from the Swedish bench. That looked close. Very close. OK, that looked like a penalty. There is no call from the Polish referee for VAR. Heart palpitation time.

14 mins. Germany have controlled the ball, but the Swedes have looked dangerous when given the chance. And they have been given chances.

18 mins. Berg has a shot, and Boateng blocks.

19 mins. Reus jinks in from the left, the ball is worked towards the edge of the Swedish box, and Rudy sends a shot well wide of the target.

22 mins. Reus looks to find Müller with a short sharp pass into the box, but Der Raumdeuter is well marshalled by Albin Ekdal.

24 mins. Sweden look to break again, but Boateng does well to get in front of Forsberg.

25 mins. Rudy gets a stray boot in the face from Ola Toivonen as he goes in for a challenge, and the German physios are on quickly. There is a lot of blood, and Rudy is off for treatment and a change of shirt. An accident, but it looks pretty horrible.

28 mins. With Germany temporarily down to ten men, Sweden are seeing more of the ball. Augustinsson crosses, and Hector gets in front of Toivonen. Corner to Sweden.

29 mins. The corner is swung in, and Werner clears. Rudy is still on the sidelines. He looks OK, but is still needing a shirt. The one he was wearing looks like the Auswärtstrikot from 2006.

30 mins. The more this goes on, the more nervous German fans are going to get. Possession is all well and good, but we really do need a goal.

31 mins. Rudy, still shirtless, cannot continue. It looks like the wisest decision is made, but Rudy is clearly not happy. The man has grit, but looks as though he has really been in the wars. His number comes, up, and İlkay Gündoğan is on.

32 mins. It was coming, wasn’t it? The same old story. This time it is Kroos with the sloppy pass, which is seized by Viktor Claesson. A lovely ball floated ball into the box finds Toivonen, who gets in front of the sprawling Rüdiger to loop a right-footed shot over Neuer. That was lovely for Toivoinen, and nasty for Neuer. Not expecting the strange parabola, the German ‘keeper has no chance. We are right on the brink here. 0-1.

33 mins. As the teams head back to the centre circle for the restart, Neuer comes forward to shout some words of encouragement. The team needs leaders now, and it seems that unlike in days gone by the only real candidate is stuck between the sticks.

36 mins. There is a bit of a lull, probably the combination of Sweden’s shock at taking the lead and Germany’s shock at going behind. If it stays like this… No, let us not go there. There is plenty of time left to turn this around.

39 mins. Out of nowhere, Gündoğan sends a firm shot that takes a deflection of a Swedish body. It is brilliantly parried by Olsen. Müller goes to meet the rebound, but is beaten to it by Mikael Lustig. The ball squirms just wide of Olsen’s right post. Lustig’s foot was high, Müller protests, but the Polish referee sees nothing doing.

40 mins. The corner is taken short and the Mannschaft work the ball back into the box, but the referee signals for an infringement.

42 mins. Reus works his way down the right and sends in a cross towards Werner, but the striker is unable to do anything with it. Sweden clear their lines.

44 mins. More shocking defending from the German back line, and Sweden break again. Claesson has a wonderful chance, but checks back when he could have shot with just Neuer to beat. Hector makes good ground, and does well to backheel the ball away. There is a whiff of a German counter down the left, but it fizzles out quickly.

45 mins. Boateng sends a low shot just wide of the right post. No trouble for Olsen though. There will be two minutes of additional time.

45+2 mins. The last action of the first half, and more drama. Sweden win a free kick out on the right, midway in the German half. Sebastian Larsson swings it in, and Berg meets the ball with a perfectly-timed glancing header. Neuer dives to his right, and pulls off a stunning save. The whistle blows for half time.

It had started so brightly. Plenty of possession, and a decent opportunity. But Germany are yet to trouble the scoreboard operators in this World Cup. More sloppy play, another break from the opposition, and the Mannschaft are now just 45 minutes away from elimination. Something needs to change right now, in what will surely be the most important half-time talk of Jogi Löw’s career.

The studio panel here on ITV are ripping into Boateng, accusing him of trying to be like Franz Beckenbauer. Sadly, there is nothing there to make me disagree with them.

The situation has forced a change for the Mannschaft. The disappointing Draxler is off, and Mario Gómez is on. It looks like it is going to be a 4-4-2.

46 mins. Here we go. 45 mins from another memorable German comeback, or a group stage disaster. Germany get things going. Time to sit on your hands.

48 mins. Germany have had control of the ball for the first two minutes. Not that it means much. The ball is recycled. Werner sends a low cross that is just behind Gómez, who is already creating confusion in the Swedish box. Reus gets in front of Augustinsson, and steers his shot into the bottom left-hand corner and to Olsen’s right. There is no chance for the Swedish ‘keeper. We have the equaliser! That was scrappy, but right now I think we will take anything. 1-1.

50 mins. The switch has been flicked. Kroos is starting to pull the strings, and Germany win a free kick out on the right.

51 mins. The ball is floated beautifully by Kroos, and Müller gets in front of Berg. His header is wide, though. That was an excellent opportunity. Yes, it is another missed chance. But the tide has turned in this contest.

52 mins. Müller is brought down by Ekdal, who is shown the first yellow card of the match. The play had been allowed to continue, and Sweden are lucky not to get another yellow after Lustig charges into Werner.

55 mins. Werner is flagged offside. It is close. Just.

56 mins. A German attack breaks down, and Sweden break again. This time Toivonen cannot get away from Boateng, who works the ball back to Neuer who clears.

57 mins. Hector gets a sight of goal, but his left-footed effort is scuffed. Easy for Olsen.

59 mins. Boateng is caught up the pitch going walkabout again. Sweden look to beak, but Rüdiger does well to make good ground and quell the counterattack.

61 mins. Reus and Kimmich play a lovely one-two down the right, and the Dortmund winger is a little in front of the final return pass. He tries what looks like a spectacular backheeled finish, but misses the ball completely.

63 mins. More smart from Werner, this time on the left. There’s some lovely footwork from Kroos at the edge of the Swedish penalty area, but he cannot get a shot away. Since the introduction of Gómez, Werner has looked far more lively.

65 mins. Kroos looks goalward from the edge of the box, and his attempt is deflected behind. The resulting corner is cleared.

66 mins. Kimmich sends in a dangerous cross from the right towards Gómez. The striker has his shirt tugged by a Swedish defender, but play goes on as Olsen parries. The play is all one way now. Surely it is a matter of time until Germany go in front. Surely.

67 mins. Boateng, having looked like a poor Beckenbauer impersonator for most of the match, suddenly unleashes a Kaiser special. A lovely long ball into the box for Gómez, who lashes it over the goal. The big man seemed to be looking for an offside flag rather than at the ball. In the end, he was just onside. Frustrating, with shades of Euro 2008. OK, let’s forget about that.

71 mins. Gündoğan almost engineers a chance, and then again. Sweden take possession, look to break, and Boateng clatters into Forsberg. Yellow card.

72 mins. Werner shifts down the left again. There is almost an own goal from Swedish skipper Andreas Granqvist as he slides in, but Olsen gets a crucial touch. Close.

74 mins. Sweden coach Janne Andersson makes his first change of the evening. Jimmy Durmaz is on for Claesson.

75 mins. The Swedish sub is in the action immediately, and wins a corner. The first kick is cleared quickly, and Gronqvist has an effort that is on target but easy for Neuer.

78 mins. A second change for Sweden. Goalscorer Toivonen is off, and John Guidetti is on.

81 mins. Kimmich and Müller combine nicely down the right, and Müller’s cross is well met by Werner. The shot floats just over the target. On the one hand, it looks like a goal is coming. On other it looks as though it may be turning into one of those nights. A draw will keep the Mannschaft in the competition, but by the finest of fine of threads. All it will take is a Gíjon-style agreement between Sweden and Mexico to knock them out.

82 mins. Boateng goes hard in on Berg, and it is a free kick to Sweden. But what’s this? The referee looks as though he has heard something from the linesman, and flashes the yellow card. A second yellow, in the space of just over ten minutes. Boateng is on his way, and there is no argument to be had. Germany still need another goal, and they will have to find it with only ten men.

83 mins. That was utterly brainless from Boateng, who has capped off a truly horrible match. Sweden will be pumped now. The send in the resulting free-kick, which is firmly punched away by Neuer. The Scandinavians have just under seven minutes, plus any additional time, to hold on.

87 mins. The final attacking throw of the dice from the Maharishi Jogi. Hector is off, and Julian Brandt is on.

88 mins. So close. Kroos finds space down the left, sweeps in a lovely cross. Rises above his marker, and meets it perfectly. His header is on target, but Olsen does brilliantly to tip it over the crossbar. Was that the chance? Was that the moment?

90 mins. There will be five minutes of additional time. If Germany are going to save themselves, it will have to be a late show. With ten men, nothing short of a miracle. Sweden make their third and final change, with Isaac Kiese Thelin replacing Berg.

90+2 mins. This is not going to happen, isn’t it? Gündoğan finds Brandt in space just outside the box, and the substitute lashes a effort that smashes against the post. Werner puts the rebound over, but is offside anyway. After his stunning last-gasp effort against Mexico that skimmed against the post, this is another fantastic effort from the young Bayer Leverkusen winger. So, so close. The clock continues to run down.

90+3 mins. There is a sniff of a chance for Sweden as they look to break, but the move quickly fizzles out. There is an offside flag against Forsberg, who blazes his shot over the target anyway.

90+4 mins. Sheer desperation now. Kimmich sends a high ball into the Swedish box, which is chased down and swept high over target by Reus who is at full stretch.

90+5 mins. The clock ticks into the final minute of additional time. Werner, who has been fantastic in the second half, charges down the left towards to edge of the Swedish box. As he makes his way towards the byline, he is scythed down by Durmaz. Free-kick. Surely, this is it now.

Kroos standing over the ball, Reus to his right. The number eight takes the short tap, Reus provides the subtle soft cushion, and the ball is sent curling towards the Swedish goal. It’s there! Into the top right-hand corner. Olsen, having taken the slightest step his right, flies high but cannot reach it.

With what is surely the last meaningful shot of the match, Germany have won it. The players are at the touchline, the bench goes crazy, and the fans are suddenly overcome with that toxic mix of elation and shock. 1-2.

90+7 mins. I am lost for words. Sweden restart and quickly lose the ball. There is a fleeting moment where it looks like the men in white can break up the field, but Larsson is booked for a foul on Gündoğan. Peep, peep, peeeeep! The final whistle blows.

There are some shenanigans on the Swedish bench, but nobody cares about that. With his stunning strike, Toni Kroos has more than made up for his first half error. Germany, with ten men, have rescued their World Cup. Just seconds short of being eliminated, they have found the power, from somewhere, to pull this out of the fire. It is not been a great performance. Far from it. But we can rest those thoughts for now.

Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, 17.06.2018
Sweden

2-1 (0-1)
Reus 48., Kroos 90+5. / Toivonen 32.

Germany: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Boateng, Rüdiger, Hector (87. Brandt) – Rudy (31. Gündoğan), Kroos – Müller, Reus, Draxler (46. Gómez) – Werner

Sweden: Olsen – Lustig, Lindelöf, Granqvist (c), Augustinsson – Larsson, Ekdal – Claesson (74. Durmaz), Forsberg – Berg (90. Kiese Thelin), Toivonen (78. Guidetti)

Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
Assistants: Paweł Sokolnicki (Poland), Tomasz Listkiewicz (Poland)
Fourth Official: Ryuji Sato (Japan)
Reserve Assistant Referee: Toru Sagara (Japan)
Video Assistant Referee: Clément Turpin (France)
Assistant Video Referees: Paweł Gil (Poland), Cyril Gringore (France), Paolo Valeri (Italy)

Yellow Cards: Boateng 71., 82. / Ekdal 52., Larsson 90+7.
Red Cards: Boateng 82. / –

Ball Possession: 71% / 29%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 12 / 7
Attempts off Target: 4 / 1
Corners: 8 / 3
Fouls Committed: 12 / 13

Attendance: 44,287

Man of the Match: Marco Reus (Germany)

Last-gasp Kroos cracker pulls ten-man Germany from the brink against Sweden
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