Updated: Jun 24, 2018
At Real Madrid, he’s known as El Cirujano, the surgeon, and if he left a tool inside the patient with the giveaway on Sweden’s first goal, the sizzling free-kick bender from an acute angle was German precision through and through, ending a torrid search for the winner and single-handedly renewing belief in the German project. Sweden had stormed out in full rampaging fashion, but the legs were jellied in the second half, even with a man up for last 20, and they would pay for not finishing off the four-time winners when they had the chance.
This game shows that all of Germany’s weaknesses are still there. Rudy was worth the try but still they are easily caught in 3 v. 2 situations and could have easily been down 2-0, maybe even a man down for a DOGSO redcard on Boateng.
Forsberg played a beautiful ball in on a 3 v. 1 that was somehow wasted by Sweden. Were they to play against a more clinical front line, like just about anyone they’re going to run into after the first stage, they’re going to be punished more ruthlessly than the Swedes, who were all Viking marauders but without the needed calm when it counted. Germany still haven’t shown that they’ve got the holding midfield that they need (Gundogan didn’t impress in particular tonight), they definitely don’t have a convincing left back, and there enough line-up questions out there to give pause, especially with reported intrasquad drama reported. With Boateng out and Hummels a question mark, that’s not a great spot to be in. Germany’s gone 180 from the old days, when a sturdy back four could always be found at home. They played for much of the game with a back one, and Kroos drifting back to support. It felt not so much swashbuckling as crazed eye-adrenaline junkie, pouring coin after coin into the slot machine.
Low gambled everything and while it ended up working, it was a half decent Swedish touch away from losing the deed to the house. He rolled the dice over and over when he didn’t absolutely have to, showing a colossal belief in his side, and it paid off. I still think it was kind of crazy, but Kroos makes him a genius with that kick. I guess when you consider that Sweden would only need a tie against Mexico, who wouldn’t need anything from the game, it makes some sense. But Low decided to go big to not go home. Bully for Joachim, tight shirts and all.
Finally a bit better from Kimmich, after 135 anemic minutes, some low crosses from deeper that caused trouble in the second half. But if the Bayern right back isn't giving you penetration on the right, and isn't really defending either, it's just one more question mark on this side.
On a brighter note, Julian Brandt and Timo Werner. I was very surprised to see Kroos and Gundogan pass up open shots (well, as open as anything was tonight) at the top of the box and try to dance in a little further. They should look at wunderkind Brandt, whose left-footed snap shot lasered through off the post, much like his right-sided try did against Mexico. Brandt’s given a jolt of energy and sharpness both times he’s come on, and I’d say he’s played well enough to see what he can do in Draxler’s spot (or perhaps we'll just go back to calling it Sane's spot). Werner brought huge energy tonight, especially on the left flank where he was able to dent the Swedes again and again, including drawing the foul for the free kick winner. You know who hasn’t impressed too much? Thomas Muller.
Everything, thus, is still on the line for the 3rd group game matches. If Sweden and Germany win, we’ve got a 3-way tie for first. Mexico’s got a slight edge only having given up 1 goal, but of course if they lose, that’s the second one right there. I have a hard time seeing Sweden winning that one but who the hell wants to play these guys? If they could get the ball at Forsberg’s feet, we’d have something to be more excited about, but you see the drill here: bunker in, try to break, stage a full siege on your corners/free kicks. I’m picking Mexico to burn them on a counter if they don’t in more clever fashion, but they can bring some aerial heat.
Mexico continue to look good, though a few more opportunities given than one would like to see (including a beauty taken by Tottenham’s Son). Ochoa has the hot hand in net, full of belief, and Hector Moreno (#16) has been a rock at the back, if exposed a bit by Son’s pace at one point. Hector Herrera (#15) is a cagey ball-winner and tempo-setter in the back, too. They are a hard team to break down, and the front three break very well, with Vela’s calm and decision-making a big plus. Miguel Layun hasn’t quite delivered when shots have come his way, but that’s something we might see yet, and probably will need to for Mexico to break past the quarters. They’re not through yet, somehow, after two very convincing performances, due to Kroos's heroics. Wednesday, June 27th, we'll get two simultaneous make-or-break matches to sort out who's going home and who's staying.