Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Plucky Germany could get quick Brazil rematch

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2018 | 12:17 AM
Germany’s Toni Kroos (centre) celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal with his teammates Antonio Ruediger (left) and Marco Reus.

A mouth-watering rematch between Germany and Brazil could be on the cards at the finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup much earlier than any football fan could have anticipated.

The two, who played out a 7-1 German win at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, could clash on July 2 in the round of 16, after Brazil put themselves in contention to win their zone with a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday, and the Germans kept their dreams alive yesterday with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Sweden.

As it now stands, the Germans, with three points, could and should beat South Korea in their final group match, but the Mexicans, with six points, need only a single point when they face Sweden to emerge group winners and avoid the Brazilians at the first knockout stage.

The desperate world champions from Germany were seconds from losing control of their World Cup fate when Toni Kroos whispered to Marco Reus just outside Sweden's penalty area.

With the score tied in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Kroos seemed to remind Reus of a tricky set play from training that will live in World Cup lore.

Kroos lined up for a free kick as if he was going for goal but just tapped the ball to Reus, who held it with his toe as the defenders paused. Kroos swung his right foot, curling the ball past a spinning Sebastian Larsson and over the outstretched hand of diving goalkeeper Robin Olsen.

The Swedes watched the ball go in, mouths open in disbelief as the strike from Kroos caught them by surprise. It is one that won't soon be forgotten in Germany.

"The fact Toni Kroos put it away is just incredible," Reus said. "He's shown that talent on previous occasions, but really in this case, it was practically the very last opportunity to win this match."

The Germans ran to Kroos and erupted in emotional relief.

"Happy, of course. It was a tough game again today for us," Kroos said. "We suffered. ... If you don't score an early goal and we have the chances then it's going to be difficult until the end. It was, but now of course we're happy because I think we also deserved the victory."

Coming off an opening loss to Mexico, Germany fell behind again when Kroos' early mistake led to Ola Toivonen's goal in the 32nd minute. Reus equalised in the 48th. A point for a draw would have been enough to stay alive for the knockout stage, but the Germans would have needed help on the final day.