Never bet against Germany. They’ve never left it quite that late though.
Toni Kroos’ 95th-minute winner against Sweden sparked bedlam in Berlin and revived Germany’s hopes of retaining their title.
Earlier in the evening, they were on the brink of becoming the third straight defending champions to fall at the group stage of a World Cup.
“This was a thriller, full of emotion, a rollercoaster right up until the final whistle,” said Germany head coach Joachim Low.
“We knew we had to bring on everything we had to turn it round.”
They still need to beat South Korea and hope Sweden fail to beat Mexico in the final round of Group F games on Wednesday, but Germany have come roaring back in Russia.
‘A shot of luck’
As Kroos curled his shot into the top-right corner, the fan park at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin erupted, a mixture of elation and relief.
“For the German fans it would have been such an embarrassment if they’d gone out in the groups,” said Germany-based football journalist Archie Rhind-Tutt on BBC Radio 5 live.
“There are still vulnerabilities at the back, but it gives them an air of invincibility when they can come back to win after playing like that.
“It’s a watershed moment for Germany; it turns all of the momentum in their favour.”
Yet in contrast to the delirious celebrations after the final whistle, Low’s side were composed throughout, according to the coach.
“We didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going a goal down,” he said. “We kept a level head and said we needed to make quick passes and tire the Swedes out to open up spaces.
“We didn’t score a couple of good chances but we never lost hope we could win the match and I think the goal scored in stoppage time had a bit of luck involved but it did show the belief we had in ourselves.”
The headlines in the German papers acknowledged both that luck and the return of hope.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “Germany wins with a shot of luck.”
Die Welt: “Blood, sweat and tears. And then came Kroos.”
Suddeutsche Zeitung: “Kroos brings the hope back.”
Bild: “Kroos, you are magnificent. Free-kick sleight of hand saves our World Cup. Dramatic victory with 10 men in added time.”
- ^ Toni Kroos’ 95th-minute winner against Sweden (www.bbc.co.uk)