For most of yesterday’s match against Sweden, defending World Cup champion Germany’s hopes of repeating appeared to be hanging by a thread.

Germany, which beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final four years ago to lift the trophy in Brazil, lost its opener to Mexico last week and therefore came into their second match at Russia 2018 needing a win to control their fate and get their hopes of a repeat back on track.

But as the clock ticked toward full time at Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Die Mannschaft seemed destined to settle for nothing more than a tie that would have put them on the brink of the first group stage elimination in their illustrious history.  

Write off the four-time titlists at your peril. Almost five minutes into stoppage time, midfielder Toni Kroos (above) stepped up to a free kick deep in Sweden’s end and curled his right-footed shot past keeper Robin Olsen, the 2-1 victory pole vaulting Germany into second place in the Group F behind leaders Mexico, which beat South Korea earlier in the day.