SOCHI – Everything was set for Toni Kroos to be the fall guy for Germany crashing out of the World Cup. But then the Real Madrid star came up with a goal for the ages to keep the world champions alive to defend their crown.
Kroos' major blunder led Sweden to taking a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute. After a Marco Reus equalizer in the 48th, Germany's hopes for a repeat were not dashed, though a draw would likely not be enough when all is said and done.
The 28-year-old Kroos stepped up five minutes into stoppage time – with Germany already having played 13 minutes with a man down – and gave Germany the 2-1 victory.
"What can you say about Toni's goal?" asked Reus, who had a first-hand look at it and was then the first to celebrate with one of the team's absolute leaders.
On a free kick form the left side, Kroos rolled the ball to Reus, who stopped it dead before the Madrid star curled in a strike just inside the far right post for his 13th goal for Germany - and his first since October 2016.
"A lot of goals have been scored in the final 10 minutes in this World Cup, and this time the luck was on our side," Reus said.
"Mistakes are part of football but Toni made up for his mistake."
Kroos for his part sounded relieved to hear some positive things coming from Germany camp after having to listen to questions all week about the holders' attitude, playing style and lack of desire after their 1-0 loss to Mexico in their World Cup opener.
"We were criticized a lot - partially fairly. One could have the feeling that a lot of people in Germany would have been happy if we were ousted," Kroos said.
"But we won't make it that easy."
Kroos took responsibility for the Sweden goal in the first half, saying: "The first goal is may fault, no question."
He then directed his comments to those questioning the team.
"But then you have to have the balls to go out and play like that in the second half, but not many people will have seen that," he said.
Germany are not yet safe from an embarrassing early exit from Russia, but at least they are still alive, thanks in large part to their leader Toni Kroos.