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Germany Claws Way Back Into World Cup

June 23,2018 22:10

A listless loss to Mexico in their opener had left the Germans in a precarious position when they took the field at Fisht Stadium: secure in the knowledge that a defeat against the Swedes, who had won their first game, would ensure Germany's World Cup ...

Over 90 minutes, the German strategy seemed rather simple: Push the ball up the center, slot it wide, cross it back in and crash the net. When the Swedes cleared, the cycle would start all over: Collect the clearance out top, move it wide, cross it in. Rinse and repeat.
Toni Kroos of Germany curled a shot over a group of defenders and around Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen for the decisive goal on Saturday. Credit Hannah Mckay/ReutersTime and again it produced gasps but no goal. But three minutes into the second half, it finally worked. Timo Werner took a ball in hard on the left and cut back a low cross toward the halftime substitute Mario Gómez. The ball was a yard behind him, and his outstretched trailing leg missed it. But that allowed it to reach Reus, and he turned it in for the tying goal.
The Germans sighed, the Swedes’ shoulders dropped, and the pattern promptly continued. A pass wide, a cross in, a ball cleared, or smothered, or sent off target. It was a training drill come to life, forced on Germany by an early Sweden goal.
That came in the 32nd minute, out of almost nothing and against the run of play. An errant pass by Kroos in the center circle became, in two quick Swedish passes, a chance bouncing off the chest of forward Ola Toivonen in the German penalty area. Coolly controlling under pressure, Toivonen brought the ball down and calmly popped it over a charging Manuel Neuer.
The Germans were stunned, and suddenly far, far closer to World Cup elimination than felt comfortable for a four-time champion playing only its second game here.
An hour later, it was the Swedes who sat stunned on the turf. They will now need to beat Mexico, and hope it’s the Germans who falter.
Here’s how Germany defeated Sweden:
They’ve done it. What a night.
Germany wins, 2-1, and they’re out here bumping chests like wrestlers. Or gladiators. Or linebackers. But mostly, like winners.
The Swedes are just devastated, sitting on the turf where they dropped. They can’t believe what’s just happened either.
What. A. Goal. What. A. Moment.
Kroos rolled the ball ahead a yard to Reus and then put his right foot into it and curled it around Olsen and inside the right post. A stunning moment, and an entire nation roars. (Another one is crestfallen, btw.)
90’ +4: Free Kick
Werner drives on the left and is fouled. Free kick just outside the area for Kroos.
90’ +2: Intense Ending!
They play it short, and Gundogan works it over to Brandt — WHO PINGS THE POST! The ricochet is too hot to handle, though, and is turned over the ball.
And now it’s Sweden quickly at the other end doing the same!!! Breathless ending here.
90’ +1: Five More Minutes!
Five minutes of added time begins ... with a German corner.
89’: Big Free Kick
Germany wins a free kick on the left, Kroos over it. Big moment coming ...
Olsen punches it over the touch line!
And still the Germans come ...
88’: Wasted Chance for Germany
Terrible wasted ball by Muller on the right. He had a team full of players in the center, but slashes a shot over the bar. Neuer now standing in the center circle as the Germans press. He’s effectively the replacement for Boateng now.
Cross to Gomez for a point-blank header at the six — Olsen pushes it over!!!!
87’: German Subs
Julian Brandt on for Germany. Fresh legs on the left.
85’: Back Come the Germans
Neuer scrambling for a new ball at every whistle now. The Germans know a tie is fine, but a win is what they really need.
Here they come again ......
83’: Swedish Subs
Sweden’s subs earlier, by the way, were Guidetti and Durmaz for Claesson and Toivonen, the goal scorer.
This will make it harder on Germany. Boateng sees red for his second yellow, and Germany will finish with 10. With Hummels already out tonight, that means both of Germany’s center backs are gone. Not that they need center backs right now. They need a goal.
80’: WERNER!!!
Another incisive ball finds him near the spot, wide open, but he lifts his shot over the bar. Hands over mouth time for him. He can’t believe it. He’s not alone.
77’: Germans Keep On Coming
Lots of back and forth now, and a couple of subs, but the tenor of the match hasn’t changed. Sweden is defending for its life and trying to break out where it can. The Germans are fighting, and sweating mightily.
64’: Nonstop Action!
The game’s pace continues hot as we pass the hour mark. German crosses, Swedish clearances, German crosses, German shots, Swedish clearances ...... You get the idea.
61’ Oooooooh That Was Close
Another ball up the middle sprayed wide by Reus. Kimmich fires it back in, but Reus somehow misses the return, and so does Gomez. That was the best chance for 2-1 yet. There will be more.
55’: Germany Keeps Attacking
Sweden has weathered the immediate storm, but Germany keeps coming. A draw keeps them alive, but it also means they’d need help to get to the second round. And that’s why they’re pushing for a win.
Werner on the left again, cross to Gomez again, shot stopped again. This is not a recording.
Now Muller, on service from the right. Over and over and over the balls come in.
52’: It’s Getting Testy
A YELLOW for Ekdal for a foul on Muller, and then Berg trucks Werner to stop a break.
Marco Reus, left, scored for Germany in the second half against Sweden. Credit Friedemann Vogel/EPA, via Shutterstock48’: REUS EQUALIZES FOR GERMANY!
Werner crosses hard from the left, but a yard behind Gomez, who reaches back and misses. But the ball then goes straight to Reus, and he slides it past Olsen. The Germans are alive, and now pressing for a second.
46’: Germany Brings in Gomez
Mario Gomez on for Germany; Draxler off. Gomez is a finisher.
Halftime: Strangely Familiar
It’s funny (well, not to Germans) how the Sweden goal was reminiscent of Mexico’s: a quick counterattack that caught the Germans scrambling back, a good first touch and a professional finish.
The last action of the half, fittingly for how it went, it Neuer diving full stretch to his right to paw away a glancing header by Marcus Berg. That was headed inside his post, so it’s a good thing Neuer is 11 feet tall. But Sweden, against all odds but not undeservedly, leads by a goal at the break. Jogi Löw better find some answers in that dressing room. But after 90 minutes against Mexico and 45 more here tonight, I’m not sure German fans believe he will.
44’: Another Sweden Counter
The lead ball finds Claesson on the right. But instead of shooting he tries to cut back, and a well-placed Hector heel breaks up the chance. That was real danger for Germany. Playing with fire late.
42’: Germany Pushing Hard
Germany desperately wants an equalizer before the half, but they are just firing balls now. Kimmich rockets in a line drive of a cross that a center fielder with a glove might not have handled. It hits a teammate hard enough to leave a welt, and ricochets away.
39’: Germany Chance
Muller is first to the rebound of a long shot parried by Olsen, but wrestling a defender as the goalkeeper comes out, he can’t find a way to get a foot on the ball.
36’: If This Score Holds...
Germany will collapse into a vicious cycle of criticism and blame-assigning and then a profound sense of ennui previously seen over the last year in Italy, the United States and the Netherlands.
34’: Germany’s Morale Sinking
Neuer was furiously clapping his hands to encourage his team after the goal, sensing heads were dropping. That was completely against the run of play, but you know what: no one puts “*-completely against run of play” on the scoresheet.
The Sweden fans, fwiw, are dancing.
Ola Toivonen celebrated scoring Sweden’s first goal against Germany during Saturday’s World Cup match. Credit Francois Lenoir/Reuters32’: SWEDEN SCORES!!!!
Well, that’s a surprise.
It all starts with a lazy Toni Kroos giveaway in midfield. Two quick passes to change direction and cross into the center and the ball is on the chest of Ola Toivonen, who brings it down on pops it over a charging Neuer. Sweden, 1-0, and my, doesn’t that get German hearts racing.
31’: Germany Back at Full Strength
That was Ilkay Gundogan, not Khedira, who was warming (apologies, the media sits in the upper deck), and now he comes on.
28’: Man Advantage for Sweden
Sweden, temporarily up a man, smartly moving the ball side to side with no real intent. The works for them on two levels: it makes the Germans chase the ball, and it chews up a minute or two without really risking a loss of possession. It’s just long lazy balls from side to side, and the Germans are forced to shift back and forth with the rhythm.
26’: Rudy Exits
No one was warming up for Germany, obviously, but they quickly get what looks like Khedira up. Rudy was a mess; surely he’ll have to come off.
Germany’s Sebastian Rudy bled after being kicked in the face during Saturday’s match against Sweden. Credit Michael Probst/Associated Press25’: Ouch...Germany’s Rudy is Bloody
Sebastian Rudy, who started in midfield in place of Sami Khedira, is down on the turn after getting kicked in the face as he slid in vain for a ball. He’s bleeding heavily, and that nose sure looks broken. They’ll swap his shirt for now, but that’s going to make it tough to continue.
22’: Sweden Wasting Time?
Muller screams to the ref about Sweden’s time-wasting. In the 22nd minute. Giving no quarter.
16’: Summing Up Germany’s World Cup
So the story of the first half so far is Germany whaling on Sweden like a dusty rug for 15 minutes, and then the Swedes nearly taking the lead with their first and only chance. Quite the World Cup Germany is having so far.
12’: Sweden Chance!
HUGE chance for Sweden there, with a turnover and quick diagonal ball springing Berg free behind the German defense. But Rudinger arrives in the nick of time to deliver just enough of a shove to knock him off, and a charging Neuer smothers the chance like a warm blanket. The Swedes howl for a penalty, or at least a review, and it might have been worth one. But play never stopped, and two minutes later, when it did, it seems the Polish referee, didn’t feel it was worth the bother.
Once played stopped and restarted for a Swedish free kick in their end, anyway, he COULDN’T go back and look.
We continue ......
10’: Germany Attacking
Sweden is keeping all 10 field players behind the ball at almost all times. They’re really feeling the German pressure, and seem determined to just hunker down and fight them off.
At least for the moment.
Sweden’s Albin Ekdal in action with Germany’s Sebastian Rudy and Joshua Kimmich during their World Cup match on Saturday. Credit Hannah Mckay/Reuters8’: Chances at Both Ends
Sweden has probed the German end just once, but a collapsing defense smothered the chance before it became anything. At the other end, Draxler turns the corner on the left and skims a cross through the goal mouth but no one is there to redirect it and it sails through to safety.
Now Reus does the same on the right, but his cutback hits a defender instead of Werner.
2’: Early Chances for Germany
Good work from Timo Werner at the end line gives Germany two bites at the apple, but Sweden blocks both, then the rebound goes out wide.
Cycling it back in, Germany gets two more (slightly deeper) shots. Both are blocked, too.
Hard to Believe: Germany Could Be Out After This One
One last time since it seems so strange to type it: Germany will be out of the World Cup if it loses to Sweden tonight. Enjoy the game.
Don’t Sleep on Sweden
Sweden isn’t one of those sexy teams everyone always looks at as a World Cup dark horse. But they’re a solid group, and they’re tight and disciplined. And remember: they knocked out another big brand, Italy, to seal their place in Russia. Coming off a win over South Korea in their opener, they surely see tonight as a chance to announce themselves.
What’s at Stake
Mexico’s victory over South Korea positions them to advance through to the knockout round tonight for the seventh straight World Cup, but it also makes the stakes very clear here: a Germany loss to Sweden and the Germans, the defending World Cup champions, are OUT after only two games in Russia.
A win or draw extends their life to the final group game, but here are the current group standings:
Mexico 6 points; +2 goal difference
Sweden 3 points; + 1 goal difference
Germany 0 points; -1 goal difference
South Korea 0 points; -2 goal difference
Sweden’s Lineup
And here’s Sweden’s XI tonight:
Robin Olsen; Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Ludwig Augustinsson; Sebastian Larsson, Albin Ekdal, Victor Claesson, Emil Forsberg, Ola Toivonen, Marcus Berg
Germany’s Lineup
The lineups are out and Germany has made FOUR changes from the opener. Özil, Khedira dropped in midfielder, Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger in for the injured Mats Hummels at center back.
Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Antonio Ruediger, Jonas Hector; Sebastian Rudy, Toni Kroos; Julian Draxler, Marco Reus, Thomas Muller; Timo Werner. That’s a manager who knows the stakes and wasn’t happy with the performances on Sunday.
Germany vs. Sweden Top Story Lines
• Germany, the defending World Cup champion, sits at the bottom of Group F after dropping its opener against Mexico, 1-0. The Germans seemed put off by the Mexicans’ pace and directness, but they hit the bar with a shot in the second half and nearly grabbed a point.
• Still, one combination of results on Saturday — a Mexico win over South Korea and a Germany loss to Sweden — would put the Germany out of the tournament by bedtime.
• Germany Coach Joachim Löw guaranteed after the loss to Mexico that would not happen. Told that three recent World Cup champions — France in 1998, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 — had celebrating their titles by crashing out in the group stage of the next World Cup, Löw feigned ignorance and confidence at the same time. “I have no idea why that might be the case,” he said. “But we will qualify for the next round.”
• Sweden famously qualified for the World Cup by eliminating Italy in a UEFA playoff after finishing second in its group behind France. The Swedes can be tough defensively: they surrendered only nine goals in 10 qualifiers, and none in their two-leg playoff against Italy.
• Germany may be without center back Mats Hummels on Saturday — he has a neck injury, the team said — but Sweden may have bigger problems: a stomach bug is sweeping through their camp.

The video-assistant-referee system has led to a higher percentage of penalty-kick goals than in each previous tournament.

OPEN Graphic

Some Pregame Reading
Rory Smith of the Times wrote that Germany’s biggest problem was that it has become entirely predictable.
That said, Löw says he isn’t changing anything. “We will not just break apart now and become headless and do something completely different,” he said this week. “There is no need to break out in panic just because we have lost a match.”

World Cup 2018 (Soccer)

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