Sochi: The noted and respected football writer Bran Glanville once wrote, “Sports be it any gives you that Yo moment at least once in a career and if it happens to football, the joy is manifold multiplied.” Glanville never went on to describe what the ‘Yo’ moment is, but probably he talked about that indescribable feeling that a sportsperson goes through when he or she does something special.
Toni Kroos probably, why probably, surely must have felt that ‘Yo’ moment Saturday when his added on time goal brought Germany back from the dead. With the clock ticking away and Germany desperately seeking a win, Kroos stepped up in the (90th + 5 minutes) to hit a magical free-kick that swung and crashed into the left-hand corner of Swedish net… a goal that enabled Germany to regain a bit of control over their future. The 10-man reigning champions were in deep trouble when Kroos stepped up to deliver at the Fisht Stadium, here.
Before that, a Kroos error had led to Ola Toivonen giving Sweden a 32nd-minute lead and even a Marco Reus equaliser early in the second half appeared to be only a temporary stay of execution for Joachim Loew’s men. A draw would have doomed Germany towards the exit door.
But the rescue act from Kroos, who had endured another difficult night in the German midfield, is a huge lift to a side who saw Jerome Boateng sent off late in the game.
They now have qualification for the last 16 back in their own hands ahead of their final Group F game against South Korea, Wednesday, the same day when Sweden face Mexico. The defending champions will play later and hence can plan out proper strategy keeping in mind that goal difference may come into play if Sweden beat Mexico.
Not since 1938 have Germany been eliminated from the World Cup in the first round. However, this result, and the manner of it, will provide an almighty boost to the Germans.
Mexico’s 2-1 win over South Korea earlier Saturday had ensured that Germany would be out in the event of a defeat, with a draw little better.
Germany coach Joachim Loew wielded the axe following the shambolic 0-1 loss at the hands of Mexico with which they began their defence of the trophy, with the much-criticised Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira dropped while Mats Hummels missed out due to injury.
Marco Reus, Sebastian Rudy and Antonio Ruediger were among those who came into the team. But even then, Germany’s usual composure was not there.
Sweden should have had an early penalty when Marcus Berg was released on goal and, at the point of shooting, was fouled by Boateng. Berg’s effort was saved by Manuel Neuer. Boateng played the man and not the ball, but there was no penalty given and no recourse to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
It was a warning for the Germans, who were then dealt a body blow – literally – when Rudy was left with a bloodied nose after receiving a stray boot in the face.
Ilkay Gundogan replaced him, coming in alongside Kroos, but it was the Real Madrid man who was at fault as Sweden went in front just a minute later.
His pass was pounced upon by the Swedes, who sprung forward, Viktor Claesson picking out Toivonen to control on his chest and lift the ball over Neuer with the aid of a slight deflection.
It could have been 2-0 at the stroke of the interval, but a diving Neuer got his fingertips to keep Berg’s header off a Sebastian Larsson cross, away from the goal.
Loew sent on Mario Gomez in place of Julian Draxler at half time, and it took just three minutes of the second half for the equaliser to arrive.
Timo Werner’s, whose incisive runs caused the Swedish defence constant problems throughout the game, low centre from the left was behind Gomez, who got a touch but not enough to put off Reus from bundling it in.
They then set off in search of the winner, with Gomez twice coming close and fellow substitute Julian Brandt smacking a post late on.
Boateng had already walked by then, seeing a second yellow in the 82nd minute for a foul on Berg.
Hope looked to be gone, but then Kroos exchanged passes with Reus at a free-kick on the left edge of the box and sent a sweet strike into the far corner. It was inexperience on the part of Swedish defender Jimmy Durmaz who tripped Werner on the left-hand side of the box.
The ball arced over helpless keeper Robin Olsen into the net, sparking an explosion of German joy on the bench and in the stands as the reigning champions kick-started their World Cup campaign.