Germany's Jerome Boateng turns in 4/10, while 8/10 Toni Kroos bails him out
Germany were on the brink of elimination in their match against Sweden, but they returned. A superb Toni Kroos free kick in the 95th minute rescued a 2-1 win for the title holders, who can now secure their route to the knockout stages with a win by a two-goal margin against South Korea.
Down 1-0 at half-time, manager Joachim Low tweaked his formation, pulled Timo Werner out to the wing and insisted on low crosses into the box. It worked. Marco Reus in his first-ever World Cup start was instrumental to Germany's win and so was Real Madrid's Kroos. The midfielder's wonder goal in the last minute was also an answer to his critics.
A night like this could carry Germany through the World Cup. Instead of reaching a dead end, they have boosted their confidence, and have won their first final. Die Nationalmannschaft now is hoping for five more finals. But it continues to be a rocky road to the Luzhniki in Moscow.
They wanted it. They controlled the opening stages with the attacking line floating around the box. They created chances. They had possession and for 60 minutes were the superior side. It could have been one of those games, but Germany did not want to return home beaten. They fought until the last minute, they showed a team spirit and mentality. In the end, it worked out.
Sometimes determination leads to a lack of focus, a lack of concentration. The Germans were vulnerable to counter-attacks after losing possession as Sweden got into too many dangerous positions. Going forward in the tournament, Low will need to find a sustainable solution in holding midfield, and the team must work on becoming more deadly in front of the goal. Jerome Boateng's absence in the next match could cause problems if Mats Hummels does not return from injury.
Manager rating out of 10
7 - Had a run of fortune, and was already on his last legs when Kroos' shot hit the back of the net. Handed World Cup debuts to three players, and could have been on his way out. Stood in the tunnel at half-time, motivated his players for the world to see. Sometimes, it comes down to one moment. But showed improved in-game coaching, especially when moving Werner out wide.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Manuel Neuer, 7 -- In what was only his fourth match of 2018, the Germany captain put in a great performance. With only seconds left on the clock in the first half, Neuer kept his side in the World Cup with a strong save against Marcus Berg.
DF Joshua Kimmich, 6 -- Under fire following the defeat to Mexico, the right-back was less vulnerable to counter-attacks as he defended a bit deeper. Had control over his side, but lacked precision when swinging the ball in.
DF Jerome Boateng, 4 -- As Germany were looking for leaders, Boateng committed an unnecessary foul close to the half-way line. It was his second booking of the night, and the Bayern defender walked off the pitch, reducing his team to only 10 men. He was lucky to escape an early red card in the first half. His blunders diminished a solid performance, especially during the opening stages of the match.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 5 -- The Chelsea man replaced the injured Hummels and struggled early on with a few sloppy passes. He improved throughout the match, but had little to add when Germany were pushing for a second goal.
DF Jonas Hector, 5 -- Was all over the place in the opening stages, but regained composure to put in a solid, yet unspectacular, performance as he made his World Cup debut.
MF Sebastian Rudy, 6 -- Another World Cup debutant, got the nod ahead of Ilkay Gundogan and was tasked to swirl around Kroos and did just that. Added stability to the midfield, but walked off the pitch with a nose injury after only 31 minutes and was clearly angry about not being able to return.
MF Toni Kroos, 8 -- Was responsible for Sweden's goal, which he took the blame for after, and lacked concentration at times. But he had 144 touches to the ball and completed 93.4 percent of his passes. Kept looking for Reus and found him near the box in the 95th minute, had a brief chat with the Dortmund man, decided now was the time to score. Then the magic happened.
MF Thomas Muller, 6 -- Much improved performance from the Bayern player. He tracked back, and was to be found all over the place in Germany's rampant first minutes. Played an even more attacking role in the second half, while others grabbed the headlines.
MF Marco Reus, 8 -- At 29, Reus is playing his first World Cup. Wants to be more than one of the great could-have-beens of the game and was there when it mattered most on both ends of the second half. Hoped to land a goal to remember with his back heel in-between. Now has a bit more time to be remembered.
MF Julian Draxler, 5 -- The invisible man. Had an early chance, but already at half-time was taken off as Low introduced more attacking power with Mario Gomez.
FW Timo Werner, 7 -- Played two halfs, with the first in a central position. Not all that inspiring even though creating danger at times. Remembered Low's words to pass the ball low. Set up Reus for the equalizer, nearly repeated the feat, but Hector is no Reus. Much improved on the wing where pace matters.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 4 -- Not everyone understood Low's decision to play Rudy over Gundogan. Most of them understood later. So many mistakes, so little confidence. Playing too high to break Sweden's counters.
FW Mario Gomez, 6 -- A great header saved by Sweden's goalkeeper could have been the winner. A huge chance, wasted in the 68th minute when he sent the ball flying high over the crossbar from short distance. Good addition, largely because he allowed Werner more space on the wing.
MF Julian Brandt, NR -- Came on late as Germany were looking for a late goal. Hit the woodwork with a shot from distance. The world will see more of the Leverkusen man who looked strong in both of his last-minute appearances so far.
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.