Toni Kroos Saves Germany's World Cup Dreams with Last-Gasp Winner vs. Sweden

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2018

TOPSHOT - Germany's forward Marco Reus celebrates scoring the 1-1 goal with Germany's forward Thomas Mueller (L) during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Germany and Sweden at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Nelson Almeida / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Defending champions Germany got their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign back on track on Saturday, beating Sweden in Group F thanks to a late goal from Toni Kroos.

The result moves Germany level on points with Sweden, with a match against South Korea still to come. Mexico lead the group.

Ola Toivonen opened the scoring on Saturday, but Marco Reus found an equaliser early in the second half. The match seemed destined to finish with that score, but Kroos scored a free-kick in injury time.

Here are the main takeaways from Saturday's clash.


Low's Squad Choices Almost Haunt Germans

Germany manager Joachim Low had to make some changes after the loss against Mexico, with both injury and poor form plaguing his side. But once again, the 58-year-old got things very wrong, setting up his team for failure.

Against Mexico, the static duo of Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil caused all kinds of spacing issues. On Saturday, he opted to drop both for Sebastian Rudy and Reus. So much attacking firepower left the defence a little exposed, and with little pace to help on the counter, he could have replaced the banged-up Mats Hummels with Niklas Sule to make sure there were no issues there.

Instead, he went with Antonio Rudiger, who promptly messed up for Toivonen's goal:

Ronan Murphy @swearimnotpaul

That accident has happened. Rudiger is not good enough. https://t.co/NKNweFFI61

Further up the pitch, Thomas Muller was a disaster for the second match in a row. If Low was willing to drop Ozil and Khedira, he should have done the same with the out-of-form Muller.

Germany's World Cup nearly came to a premature end on Saturday, and while they escaped against Sweden, the team still appears to be in serious trouble. Low needs to get his side back on track in a hurry, or the top teams in the knockout stages will feast on the defending champions.


Boateng Red Card Means Germans Must Have Healthy Hummels

After Jerome Boateng's red card, many will point at the Bayern Munich man as the biggest culprit in Germany's defence. The 29-year-old was forced to spend much of his time covering for Rudiger, however, who had a disastrous outing as Hummels' replacement.

Hummels is usually the one who takes the vocal leading role in defence, and his presence was sorely missed against the Swedes. With Boateng now suspended for the match against South Korea, it's pivotal the former Borussia Dortmund man gets healthy in time and is able to play.

Sule is a fine talent, but a duo of the inexperienced Bayern man and the struggling Rudiger will not inspire much confidence.


Non-Penalties Prove VAR Needs to Be Used More

On Friday, Serbia rightly felt aggrieved when forward Aleksandar Mitrovic was brought down by no less than two Swiss players, and VAR wasn't used to check whether they should have had a penalty.

A similar situation occurred just a day later—Marcus Berg held off Boateng and was brought down just as he fired off a shot. Just about everyone watching clearly saw it as a penalty, but the official and video referees thought otherwise:

Robbie Dunne @robbiejdunne

You’ve got that one wrong, VAR, my old pal. Should have been a penalty.

VAR has mostly worked well during the World Cup, especially in the first days of the tournament. That's what makes the occasional reluctance to use it so frustrating―we have the technology, so why not use it?/span>


What's Next?

Group F will conclude on Wednesday, when the Germans face South Korea and Mexico take on Sweden.