RECAP: Toni Kroos' stoppage time heroics saves Germany from World Cup disaster
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The desperate world champions from Germany were seconds from losing control of their World Cup fate when Toni Kroos whispered to Marco Reus just outside Sweden’s penalty area.
With the score tied in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Kroos seemed to remind Reus of a trick play from training that will live in World Cup lore.
The Germans, down to 10 men after Jerome Boateng was given a second yellow card, rallied for a 2-1 victory Saturday and their title defense was suddenly revived.
Kroos lined up for a free kick as if he was going for goal but just tapped the ball to Reus, who held it with his toe as the defenders paused. Kroos smashed it, curling the ball past a spinning Sebastian Larsson and over the outreached hand of diving goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
The Swedes watched the ball go in with mouth-open disbelief.
The Germans ran to Kroos and erupted in emotional relief.
Coming off an opening loss to Mexico, Germany fell behind again when Kroos’ early mistake led to Ola Toivonen’s goal in the 32nd minute. Reus equalized in the 48th.
Mexico leads Group F with six points, and Germany and Sweden both have three. Mexico faces Sweden and Germany takes on winless South Korea in the final group matches.
For 90-plus minutes, Germany looked as if it would enter the final match facing the same possible fate as Spain and Italy and potentially become the third straight defending champion to fail to reach the knockout stage. They played the final 10 minutes without Boateng.
Toivonen gave Sweden the lead, but Germany controlled every aspect by playing aggressive and attacking soccer. Germany forced Sweden to play defensively for almost the entire second half and eventually the attack paid off.
Reus scored to pull Germany even, finishing Timo Werner’s cross that was tapped by halftime substitute Mario Gomez and caused the ball to pop up perfectly for Reus to finish with his leg.
Olsen made a major save by stopping Gomez’s header in the 88th minute and Julian Brandt hit the post in the 90th, but he had no chance at Kroos’ strike.
Germany coach Joachim Loew showed he wasn’t willing to stay with the status quo, making four changes to his starting lineup. One was due to necessity after central defender Mats Hummels injured his neck in training on Thursday.
The surprise was Loew dropping Mesut Ozil from the starting lineup in favor of Reus.
It was the first time Ozil was dropped from the lineup in a major international championship in his senior career. He started every game at the 2010 World Cup and was one of the stars of Germany’s winning squad in Brazil four years ago.
The victory puts the Germans back on track to advance to the knockout stage if it can get a win against South Korea and have a better goal differential than the Swedes or Mexico depending on the outcome of their final match.
Even if it does advance, Germany may be looking at being the No. 2 team from the group and potentially a matchup with Brazil in the round of 16.