Toni Kroos scored deep into stoppage time in Sochi last night to revive Germany’s fading World Cup hopes with a dramatic 2-1 win over Sweden.
Marco Reus’ maiden goal at the tournament to equalise Ola Toivonen’s first-half strike looked set to give the defending champions a slim chance of progressing to the knockout phase.
However, despite Germany being down to ten men after Jerome Boateng’s red card, midfielder Kroos scored from a short free-kick move in the fifth minute of added time to break Swedish hearts.
It leaves Joachim Low’s side knowing a win over South Korea in their final Group F match will see them progress.
There was no sign of the difficulties to come during an opening half-hour which Germany totally dominated, with Sebastian Larsson clearing Draxler’s shot off the line in only the third minute.
For the first time since Euro 2008, Mesut Ozil was dropped from the starting line-up at a major tournament with Reus, making his first World Cup start, one of four changes from the German side that lost to Mexico in their opener.
Neck problems ruled out centre-back Mats Hummels, with Marvin Plattenhardt back on the bench as Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger and Cologne’s Jonas Hector came into defence, with Sebastian Rudy for Sami Khedira the other new face.
Such was Germany’s control after 20 minutes they had enjoyed 84 per cent possession with Sweden managing just 27 passes – compared to their opponents’ 209.
But it was not without a scare as, controversially, the backtracking Boateng appeared to catch Marcus Berg as he raced through on the counter-attack.
It was enough of a touch to allow goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to make a block and Polish referee Szymon Marciniak was in no mood to either award a penalty or consult VAR. It was a lucky escape for the Germans.
Low’s team found themselves playing with ten men for five minutes after Rudy was forced off with a bloody nose after an accidental boot in the face and was eventually replaced by Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan on the half-hour.
But then Kroos gave away possession in the centre-circle and seconds later Toivonen chested down Viktor Claesson’s cross and with his second touch beautifully lobbed a shot over Neuer and inside the far post. The 31-year-old scored only two goals – both in the French League Cup – for relegated Toulouse last season.
Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen’s brilliant one-handed save from Gundogan and follow-up block to deny Thomas Muller kept them ahead and Berg could have doubled their lead in added time with Neuer diving to stop his header creeping inside the far post.
With their World Cup slipping away Mario Gomez replaced Draxler for the second half and within 90 seconds Germany were level when the injury-blighted Reus turned home Timo Werner’s cross for his first international goal in more than three years.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder was inches away from backheeling in a second as Germany sensed their opportunity but a second yellow card for Boateng saw them play the last eight minutes with ten men.
Olsen produced a superb one-handed save to deny Gomez and a post kept out substitute Julian Brandt’s long-range strike in added time as the game looked destined to finish 1-1. But there was incredible drama to come.
Former Celtic striker John Guidetti squandered a great chance for Sweden in injury time and Germany raced forward and won a free-kick on the left of the Swedes’ penalty area, from which Kroos floated a wonderful strike into the top corner.