A late winner from Toni Kroos gave Germany a 2-1 win over Sweden and salvaged their World Cup hopes in a thrilling encounter in Sochi.
The defending champions’ chances of qualification from Group F had appeared in tatters before Kroos’ late winner.
Down to 10 men after defender Jerome Boateng had received a second yellow card on 82 minutes, and with the scores level at 1-1, Germany won a free-kick on the edge of the box which was laid off to Kroos who curled the ball into the top corner.
The drama deep into injury time had followed an equalizer from Marco Reus early in the second half, which canceled out Ola Toivonen’s sublime 32nd-minute lob for Sweden.
Germany started the brighter of the two sides in Sochi, with Julian Draxler and Marco Reus particularly lively early on.
However, very much against the run of play Sweden had the game’s first real chance after Marcus Berg found himself one-on-one with Manuel Neuer following careless play by Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger.
The striker, who plays for Al Ain in the UAE Pro League, was shunted away from the ball by Jerome Boateng, and replays showed that Swedish claims for a penalty were warranted but neither referee Szymon Marciniak, nor the VAR officials watching in Moscow, found fault with the challenge.
The breakthrough for Sweden would come soon enough and it would come from another Germany error.
Kroos was this time guilty of a careless pass in the center of the field, allowing Viktor Claesson the opportunity to loft a ball towards Toivonen who took the ball on his chest before lifting the ball high above the head of the advancing German captain Manuel Neuer.
The Germans started the second half positively and it was barely five minutes old when Marco Reus leveled proceedings from a Timo Werner cross from the left.
Sweden remained compact in defense and allowed Germany to advance into their half but would look to break at every opportunity, and continued German carelessness afforded them several opportunities to do so.
Emil Forsberg, who turns out for RB Leipzig in Germany’s Bundesliga, saw a 76th minute effort saved by Neuer but Sweden appeared to tire as the game entered the final third, particularly with the German offense now coming in waves.
However, after German center half Jerome Boateng was issued a second yellow card in the 82nd minute, it appeared as if Sweden would hold out for a draw – especially after Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen turned a Mario Gomez header over the bar and a 20-yard drive from Julian Brandt rebounded off the post.
With the seconds ticking away it appeared as if Germany’s hopes of qualification to the last 16 were in doubt before Kroos’ shot from an improbable angle on the left of the box nestled in Olsen’s top corner, the latest ever winning goal in World Cup history sufficient to maintain Germany’s hopes of retaining the trophy they won four years ago – for now at least.