Toni Kroos scored an incredible free-kick in the 95th minute as ten-man Germany returned from the brink of elimination to beat Sweden.
One of the biggest shocks in recent footballing history was on the cards when Ola Toivonen’s wonderful chip sailed over Manuel Neuer, before Marco Reus kept the Germans alive with a second-half equaliser.
And the world champions, who seemed destined to be denied by the heroic Swedes, put matters back in their own hands despite being reduced to ten through Jerome Boateng’s second yellow card when Kroos bent an unstoppable strike past Robin Olsen at the death.
Joachim Low’s side can now progress into the knockout stages with victory against the already-eliminated South Korea on the final day. But it’s anguish for Sweden, who must now beat Mexico to stand a chance or hope for a miraculous South Korean result.
The game started brightly for the Germans. Seb Larsson denied Julian Draxler on the line in the third minute as Low’s heavily-rotated side piled on the pressure.
But the same vulnerability we saw in the Mexico defeat resurfaced as early as the 13th minute and Marcus Berg should’ve had a penalty.
One pass saw him bearing down on goal before he was fouled at the crucial moment by Boateng. Bizarrely, VAR chose not to intervene.
But justice was done 20 minutes later through a magical Toivonen lob over Neuer. Kroos conceded possession, almost as if to symbolise Germany’s fall from grace, before the big man put the footballing giants out of the tournament as things stood.
Sweden had none of the ball, but all of the threat. Germany’s possession was aimless and with so many bodies committed up-field; they were in trouble at every turnover.
However they finally arrived at the tournament in the second-half. The severity of their situation clearly became apparent as they attacked Sweden with purpose and scored immediately after the break.
Reus’ knee has caused him so many problems but he scored with it tonight, meeting Timo Werner’s clever cutback.
From that point on, it was a case of Germany against the footballing Gods. Olsen made one of those iconic World Cup saves from a point-blank Mario Gomez header and Julian Brandt thundered one against the post from distance.
Their fire looked well and truly burned-out when Boateng received a second yellow in the 82nd minute, but then Kroos resurrected the real Germany with seconds to spare.
From an angle that begged the cross, he whipped an unstoppable strike past the seemingly unbeatable Olsen to send the despairing Germans into dreamland.
The Swedish shot-stopper did exactly that all night and produced the best goalkeeping display we’ve seen in Russia so far. Football isn’t fair sometimes.
The Germans were dead and buried. Even a draw wasn’t really enough tonight. But just when we’d all forgotten, Kroos reminded that with quality like that, you can never count them out.