Sochi, Russia — The desperate world champions from Germany were seconds from losing control of their World Cup fate when Toni Kroos whispered to Marco Reus just outside Sweden’s penalty area.
With the score tied in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Kroos seemed to remind Reus of a trick play from training that will live in World Cup lore.
Down to 10 men after Jerome Boateng was given a second yellow card, Germany rallied for a 2-1 victory over Sweden on Saturday to suddenly revive its title defense thanks to a strike from Kroos that caught the Swedes by surprise and won’t soon be forgotten in Germany.
“The fact Toni Kroos put it away is just incredible,” Reus said. “He’s shown that talent on previous occasions but really in this case it was practically the very last opportunity to win this match.”
Kroos lined up for a free kick as if he was going for goal but just tapped the ball to Reus, who held it with his toe as the defenders paused. Kroos swung his right foot, curling the ball past a spinning Sebastian Larsson and over the outstretched hand of diving goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
The Swedes watched the ball go in, mouths open in disbelief.
The Germans ran to Kroos and erupted in emotional relief.
“Of course this was a thriller, full of emotions and a rollercoaster ride right up until the final whistle,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Coming off an opening loss to Mexico, Germany fell behind again when Kroos’ early mistake led to Ola Toivonen’s goal in the 32nd minute. Reus equalized in the 48th. A point for a draw would have been enough to stay alive for the knockout stage, but the Germans would have needed help on the final day.
Now Germany has some control of what happens. Mexico leads Group F with six points, and Germany and Sweden both have three. Mexico faces Sweden and Germany takes on winless South Korea in the final group matches.
Crazy as it seems, all four teams still have a chance to advance on the final day.
“There’s nothing strange to get ready for that match,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said. “We still have an excellent opportunity to qualify.”
For 90-plus minutes, Germany looked as if it would enter the final match facing the same possible fate as Spain and Italy and potentially become the third straight defending champion to fail to reach the knockout stage. They played the final 10 minutes without Boateng.
Toivonen gave Sweden the lead, but Germany controlled every aspect by playing aggressive and attacking soccer. Germany forced Sweden to play defensively for almost the entire second half and eventually the attack paid off.
Reus scored to pull Germany even, finishing Timo Werner’s cross that was tapped by halftime substitute Mario Gomez and caused the ball to pop up perfectly for Reus to finish with his leg.
Olsen made a major save by stopping Gomez’s header in the 88th minute and Julian Brandt hit the post in the 90th, but he had no chance at Kroos’ strike.
More Group F
Mexico 2, South Korea 1: Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez scored a goal each to move Mexico closer to a spot in the round of 16 by beating South Korea in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.
Mexico, which upset defending champion Germany in its opening match, took the lead when Vela converted from the penalty spot in the 26th minute. The Mexicans were awarded the penalty after Jang Hyun-soo handled the ball while trying to stop a cross from Andres Guardado.
Hernandez added the second in the 66th, scoring his 50th goal for Mexico. He hit the ball low past goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo after collecting a pass from Hirving Lozano.
Son Heung-min scored a consolation goal for South Korea in injury time, sending a powerful shot past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
The South Koreans, who have lost their opening two matches, kept Ochoa under pressure throughout the match with Son often out-sprinting the Mexican defense.
Belgium 5, Tunisia 2: Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard scored two goals each in a dominant Belgium display at Moscow, leading their team over Tunisia in the highest scoring game of the World Cup.
The Red Devils were rampant at times and rested both forwards in the second half for tougher tests ahead. A spot in the round of 16 is almost certain after an opening 3-0 win over Panama.
Belgium had a two-goal lead within 16 minutes. Hazard scored with a sixth-minute penalty kick he earned by being tripped, and Lukaku angled a low, left-foot shot into the corner of the opposing goal.
The Tunisians cut the lead when defender Dylan Bronn headed in a goal in the 18th minute, but Belgium wasn’t done.
Lukaku clipped a right-foot shot over advancing goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha to match Cristiano Ronaldo with four goals as the tournament’s top scorers. Hazard then ran on to a long pass in the 51st, flicked the ball around Ben Mustapha and shot into an empty net. Substitute Michy Batshuayi made it a rout in stoppage time, and failed with three other good scoring chances.
Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazri got his team’s second with almost the last kick of the match.
Belgium has shown the most complete attacking force at the World Cup, though without yet playing a European or South American team.
Against England on Thursday, Belgium will be favored to advance as the winner of Group H.
World Cup schedule
England vs. Panama, 8 a.m. (FS1)
Japan vs. Senegal, 11 a.m. (Fox)
Poland vs. Colombia, 2 p.m. (Fox)
Uruguay vs. Russia, 10 a.m. (Fox)
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt, 10 a.m. (FS1)
Spain vs. Morocco, 2 p.m. (FS1)
Iran vs. Portugal, 2 p.m. (Fox)