World Champions Germany left it till the very end in Sochi to open their points account for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It was Sweden that found the net first when Ola Toivonen chipped the ball over Manuel Neuer to give the Swedes an unlikely lead right after the half-hour mark.
But the comeback for Germany was started by Marco Reus, as he equalized just three minutes into the second half. And the mission was complete when Toni Kroos scored from a set-piece in the fourth minute of stoppage time to give the Germans the much needed three points.
The win lifts Joachim Low’s side to second place in Group F, level with Sweden on three points as Germany take on South Korea in their final group game, whereas the Swedish will face Mexico on June 27.
Here are the best and worst players from the game.
#5 Best – Ola Toivonen
Prior to the start of the World Cup, Ola Toivonen endured a torrid time last campaign for his club Toulouse. Poor personal performances were wrapped up with the club’s struggles in Ligue 1 as they narrowly avoided relegation by winning the playoff.
Toivonen started his second game this tournament and scored an exquisite goal that put Sweden ahead in the 32nd minute. He chased down Viktor Claesson’s cross, got himself in between the two German defenders in the box and chested it down before smartly chipping it over the head of Manuel Neuer.
Toivonen made it look really simple as he kept his composure after chesting down the ball and did not panic from an incoming sliding challenge of Antonio Rudiger as all his focus remained on the ball and the goal, which helped him to finish off his opportunity cleanly and masterfully.
#4 Worst – Julian Draxler
Julian Draxler started for the second straight game in the World Cup but failed to justify his selection. The Paris Saint-Germain winger was unable to have any sort of influence in the game and was withdrawn at halftime for Mario Gomez.
In his 45 minute stay on the pitch, Draxler did possess a high pass accuracy of 90 percent, but it ultimately did not result in anything substantial as he made just one key pass and failed to supply any successful crosses into the box.
The 24 year old did find the first clear-cut chance of the game but his volleyed attempt was blocked by Sebastian Larsson and that ended up the only shot he had at goal in the first half.
Back to back poor performances should result in Draxler being dropped for the next game as Germany possess many options available in their squad who can fit into the role and play out wide on the left.
#3 Best – Marco Reus
A big positive for Germany from their win against Sweden will be the performance of Marco Reus. The Borussia Dortmund man has struggled with injuries in recent years but a comeback last season saw him finish the campaign on a high with BVB.
His good form for club rewarded him with a place in the starting XI for Germany against Sweden and he delivered in the number 10 role behind striker Timo Werner. Reus had 67 touches along with a 77 percent pass accuracy, completed a couple of key passes and got the assist for Toni Kroos’ winner.
It was a difficult first 45 minutes for Reus but following Mario Gomez’s introduction in the second half, the Dortmund winger became more of an attacking threat in the box and this ultimately earned him a goal.
Marco Reus’ equalizer came at an ideal time as it allowed Germany to assert their pressure and dominance on Sweden for the remainder of the half in search of the winner. The 29-year old’s performance will be a huge boost for manager Joachim Low as his decision to play Reus ahead of Mesut Ozil was a brave yet successful one.
#2 Worst – Jerome Boateng
Jerome Boateng had a disastrous outing against Sweden in Sochi on Saturday night. Firstly, he was fortunate to have not conceded a penalty on 12 minutes for a push on Marcus Berg when he was through on goal and the referee decided not to take the assistance of VAR.
But in a span of 11 minutes during the second half, Boateng received two yellow cards to signify his poor performance as Germany were down to 10 men for the final eight minutes and beyond.
Boateng’s first yellow came in the 71st minute for a nasty foul on the Swedish player before he was once again caught in the middle of a reckless foul as a wild sliding challenge on Marcus Berg in the final ten minutes of the game saw him receive his marching orders.
The discipline of the players this year in the World Cup has been much better than expected as the average number of yellow cards per game has reduced. However, this game pretty much summed up Jerome Boateng’s last season at Bayern Munich, as injuries and a lack of playing time have resulted in a massive dip in his form.
#1 Best – Toni Kroos
Until the 94th minute, Toni Kroos pretty much had an average game as Germany were level with Sweden heading into stoppage time.
Prior to Sebastian Rudy’s injury in the first half, the Real Madrid star was employed in a deeper role in midfield that certainly did not bring out the best of him.
But following the introduction of Ilkay Gundogan for Rudy, the shackles seemed to have been taken off as the Manchester City midfielder covered defensive midfield and allowed Kroos the freedom to play in an advanced role and pop up in goal-scoring positions around the box.
The 28-year old took the responsibility and became more involved in the game, playing the role he is accustomed to. When required the most, Kroos stepped up and delivered at the very end with his free kick from the edge of the box which beat the Swedish goalkeeper and gave Germany an important win in the 95th minute.
Toni Kroos’ winner could not have come at a better time as the Germans looked to have been headed for a draw that would leave them three points behind Sweden in Group F.
However, the goal means that Germany are now equal on points with their European counterparts and will be firm favourites to qualify for the knockout stages as they face South Korea in their final match, while Sweden faces a tough challenge against group leaders Mexico.