On Saturday, facing Sweden and elimination in their second group-stage game, Germany overcame a 1-0 first-half deficit with a pair of second-half goals, the second of which came in the final minute of stoppage time, to beat Sweden by a final score of 2-1.

Toni Kroos’s Late Goal Saves Germany’s World Cup.The winning goal was a stunner: a free kick on the left side that Kroos rolled a yard ahead to Marco Reus. Reus stopped the ball and stepped back as Kroos took his full windup and curled a shot over a group of defenders, around goalkeeper Robin Olsen and inside the right post.

Kroos delivered when his country really needed him.

Lining up the free-kick on the edge of the box, he and Reus were over it.

Sweden got its goal not long after. In the 32nd minute, after a bad giveaway by Germany, Ola Toivonen made a slicing run through the backline and was played in beautifully by Viktor Claesson. Toivonen used a chip to beat a charging Neuer. And like that, Sweden took a 1-0 lead and pushed Germany to the edge of the cliff.

Germany responded with chance after chance after chance, but was continually denied at the goal line by key deflections and saves. Frustration mounted.

In a tactical switch after Mexico took advantage of Germany’s lack of a defensive midfield, Germany coach Joachim Low dropped star attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil from the starting lineup for the first time since Ozil made his debut for Germany, ending his streak of 26 straight starts in major tournament play. Like Ozil, Sami Khedira was dropped. Marco Reus and Sebastian Rudy gained entrance into the starting XI. Rudy, however, was forced to depart the game in the first half after taking a cleat to the face, which led to a bloody scene.
The Germans now probably need only a win over winless South Korea in their final group game to advance out of the first round — a possibility that seemed nervously out of reach at halftime.

The curse of champions nearly caught Germany like it caught Italy and Spain in the past two World Cups, but Germany cauterized the wound before the curse could kill them.

The angle didn’t matter to Toni Kroos. He tapped the ball forward to his teammate, who set the ball in place for him. With pitch-perfect precision, Kroos whipped the ball toward the far post. The ball found the back of the net. The breakthrough came. Germany got the goal it needed.

After surviving one last-gasp attack by Sweden, Germany claimed victory and three crucial points.

It felt like a relief to the Germans, who raced to Kroos at the corner flag and smothered him with a mix of joy and relief. A listless loss to Mexico in their opener had left the Germans in a precarious position when they took the field at Fisht Stadium: secure in the knowledge that a defeat against the Swedes, who had won their first game, would ensure Germany’s World Cup exit after two games.

But four changes to the lineup and the death rattle of an early exit erased all the listlessness. The Germans were a relentless machine again on Saturday, and while the Swedes fought hard — and even took the lead first — they eventually crumbled under the pressure.