FIFA World Cup 2018: Toni Kroos missile rescues 10-man Germany
12:00 AM, June 24, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:48 AM, June 24, 2018

Kroos missile rescues 10-man Germany

Belgium demolish Tunisia; Mexico down South Korea

Toni Kroos rescued holders Germany from the brink of an unthinkable early World Cup exit here Saturday, curling home a sensational winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time to seal a 2-1 win over Sweden.

10-man reigning champions Germany were in deep trouble when Kroos stepped up to steer in his dramatic winner in the final minute of time added on at Sochi's Fisht Stadium.

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates his second goal during his side's 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow yesterday. The two goals took Lukaku's overall tally to five goals in two editions, making him the joint highest scorer for Belgium in World Cups with Marc Wilmots. PHOTO: REUTERS

In the day's earlier matches Belgium and Mexico powered towards the last 16 of the World Cup with convincing victories. Belgium produced an imperious display to overwhelm Tunisia, with stars RomeluLukaku and Eden Hazard scoring two apiece in a 5-2 rout. Mexico meanwhile showed that their shock win over Germany last weekend was no fluke with a 2-1 defeat of South Korea in Rostov-on-Don.

Before Kroos's stunner, his error had led to Ola Toivonen giving Sweden a 32nd-minute lead and even a Marco Reus equaliser early in the second half appeared to be only a temporary stay of execution for Joachim Loew's men.

But the rescue act from Kroos, who had endured another difficult night in the German midfield, is a huge lift to a side who saw Jerome Boateng sent off late in the game.

They now have qualification for the last 16 back in their own hands ahead of their final Group F game against South Korea on Wednesday.

Not since 1938 have Germany been eliminated from the World Cup in the first round. However, this result, and the manner of it, will provide an almighty boost to the Germans and is a hammer blow to Sweden, who will face off with Mexico in their last match with all still to play for.

Germany coach Joachim Loew wielded the axe following the shambolic 1-0 loss at the hands of Mexico with which they began their defence of the trophy, with the much-criticised Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira dropped while Mats Hummels missed out due to injury.

Marco Reus, Sebastian Rudy and Antonio Ruediger were among those who came into the team. But just like against Mexico, Germany's usual composure was not there.

IlkayGundogan replaced Sebastian Rudy, who suffered a bloodied nose from a stray boot to the face, andslotted in alongside Kroos, but it was the Real Madrid man who was at fault as Sweden went in front just a minute later.

His pass was pounced upon by the Swedes, who sprung forward, Viktor Claesson picking out Toivonen to control on his chest and lift the ball over Neuer with the aid of a slight deflection.

Loew sent on Mario Gomez in place of Julian Draxler at half-time, and it took just three minutes of the second half for the equaliser to arrive. Timo Werner's low centre from the left was behind Gomez, who got a touch but not enough to put off Reus from bundling it in.

They then set off in search of the winner, with Gomez twice coming close and fellow substitute Julian Brandt smacking a post late on.

Boateng had already walked by then, seeing a second yellow in the 82nd minute for a foul on Berg.

Hope looked to be gone, but then Kroos exchanged passes with Reus at a free-kick on the left edge of the box and sent a sweet strike into the far corner. 

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