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Oct 17, 2012

Germany left dazed by Sweden revival

Germany's players and officials were left stunned after Sweden came back from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in a World Cup qualifier at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on Tuesday.

• Germany 4-4 Sweden
• Sweden back from brink

Joachim Low's team remain top of their group despite their dramatic collapse, but the nature of the match left the German media asking plenty of questions.

Gary Lineker, reprising his own quote about Germany, tweeted: "Football is a simple game where 22 men kick a ball about for 90 minutes and, at the end, the Germans lose a four-goal lead."

It was the first time ever that a Germany team had failed to win from four goals in front, and anything other than a home victory had appeared unlikely when Miroslav Klose scored twice to put them two ahead after only 15 minutes.

By the time an hour had been played, further goals from Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil had left Low's side in total control - but Zlatan Ibrahimovic swiftly pulled one back with a header.

Then things began to fall apart. Two minutes later, Mikael Lustig (Lustig means funny in German) put the ball past Manuel Neuer from a difficult angle after Holger Badstuber had misjudged a long pass into the area.

"This is what can happen when a game is seemingly decided," deflated Germany midfielder Toni Kroos said afterwards. "Sweden put up a fight. The 4-1 and 4-2 goals should have been a warning for us.

"For 60 minutes everything worked out, and then you think you can get through without trouble. That was our mistake. That was not supposed to happen."

Two more Swedish goals exposed a weak German back four, which had needed to be re-arranged yet again before the match.

Skipper Philipp Lahm returned to the left-back position because Marcel Schmelzer missed the game with a minor injury, while Jerome Boateng took the right-back role.

But Boateng was caught out of position in the build-up to Sweden's third, and Badstuber could not stop Johan Elmander from putting the ball away.

Even Neuer became nervous but, on his international debut, Tobias Sana missed an open goal after the Germany keeper had dropped the ball. Rasmus Elm, though, made Germany's worst fears reality when he equalised three minutes into stoppage time.

Bastian Schweinsteiger said: "Of course, that's impossible to explain. I have never witnessed anything like this. Not in a lifetime this was supposed to happen. It comes down to us feeling too safe."

A shocked Low echoed those sentiments when he told ARD TV: "To throw away a 4-0 lead is normally impossible. The problem might have begun somewhere in our heads.

"We are incredibly disappointed, but it will not throw us off course. Maybe that's a game we can learn from for the future."

"This was a chain reaction, a psychological aspect," Germany general manager Oliver Bierhoff said. "Everyone works a little less, you win less one-one-situations, you run less, you give the opponent a couple of chances. We need to analyse this uncompromisingly."

The result came amid increasing debate in Germany about the national team, sparked by the 2-1 Euro 2012 semi-final defeat to Italy.

Some pundits had suggested that the team lacked a true leader, speculated about rifts between Dortmund and Bayern Munich players and wondered whether Low's tactical approach had been responsible for the defeat against the Italians.

It had seemed that the 6-1 demolition of Ireland on Friday and the first 60 minutes against Sweden were about to quieten such debates - but the last 30 minutes brought up those issues and raised new questions as well.

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