Moscow: Germany saved its World Cup with one swing of Toni Kroos’s right foot on Saturday night, snatching a 2-1 victory over Sweden from the jaws of a draw that would have felt very much like a defeat.
The goal, five minutes into added time, and only moments before the final whistle, may have saved Germany’s World Cup campaign. It gives them three points in the group, three behind Mexico and even with Sweden. The Germans now probably need only a win over winless South Korea in their final group game to advance out of the first round — a possibility that seemed nervously out of reach at halftime.
The winning goal was a stunner: a free kick on the left side that Kroos rolled a yard ahead to Marco Reus. Reus stopped the ball and stepped back as Kroos took his full windup and curled a shot over a group of defenders, around goalkeeper Robin Olsen and inside the right post.
It felt like a relief to the Germans, who raced to Kroos at the corner flag and smothered him with a mix of joy and relief. A listless loss to Mexico in their opener had left the Germans in a precarious position when they took the field at Fisht Stadium: secure in the knowledge that a defeat against the Swedes, who had won their first game, would ensure Germany’s World Cup exit after two games.
But four changes to the lineup and the death rattle of an early exit erased all the listlessness. The Germans were a relentless machine again on Saturday, and while the Swedes fought hard — and even took the lead first — they eventually crumbled under the pressure.
Over 90 minutes, the German strategy seemed rather simple: Push the ball up the center, slot it wide, cross it back in and crash the net. When the Swedes cleared, the cycle would start all over: Collect the clearance out top, move it wide, cross it in. Rinse and repeat.