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MOSCOW, June 24, 2018 (News Wires) - Toni Kroos’s last-gasp winner ensured that Germany remain right in World Cup contention but the holders are not yet safe from the threat of an ignominious group-stage exit.

A 95th-minute free-kick from Kroos gave Joachim Loew’s side a dramatic 2-1 victory over Sweden in Sochi Saturday, after a Marco Reus strike had cancelled out Ola Toivonen’s opener.

After beginning the defence of the trophy with a 1-0 defeat against Mexico in Moscow, another loss by the Black Sea would have eliminated Germany in the first round of the World Cup for the first time since 1938.

The spectre of the champions’ curse has been hanging over the Germans, who were in serious danger on Saturday of following France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain four years ago in becoming the fourth holders this century to be humbled in the group stage.

The intervention of Kroos means now it is all to play for in Group F.

The four-time world champions must win by a margin of two goals against South Korea in Kazan to be absolutely sure of progressing. Failure to do so would mean relying on the outcome of the other match between Mexico and Sweden.

For now, at least, there is renewed optimism after a turbulent week.

Hummels to return

“We will look at the videos and see what we have to do better, but of course for our emotional side it was a very good thing today, because now if you have a game like this you start believing,” defender Mats Hummels said as he left Sochi’s Fisht Stadium.

Of the winning goal from Real Madrid midfielder Kroos, who had earlier been at fault for Sweden’s opener, Hummels added: “Something like this can be a big moment in the tournament.

“But if we lose against South Korea or don’t make it to the next stage, the goal isn’t worth anything, so we have to know that we got a little bit lucky and we have to show and to prove that we can be way better than we have been.”

The good news for Loew is that Hummels is likely to return for the final group game after being forced to sit out Saturday’s match with a neck problem.

“The doc said it was too much of a risk that something very serious could happen,” said the 29-year-old, who was replaced by Chelsea’s Antonio Ruediger.

Germany’s other first-choice centre-back, Jerome Boateng, will be suspended in Kazan after being sent off against the Swedes.

Rudy breaks nose

More changes will therefore be required after Loew dropped the underperforming Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, bringing in Reus and Sebastian Rudy.

While Reus scored and came away with the man-of-the-match award on Saturday, Rudy lasted just 25 minutes before coming off with a bloodied nose.

“We have to take stock now, see what the situation is. We are tired,” said the coach.

“Reus started having cramp in his legs, Boateng will not be in the line-up, Rudy broke his nose and we probably need a day of rest.”

Germany are defending a proud record of always reaching at least the last eight at the World Cup since winning the trophy in 1954.

They have made it to at least the semi-finals at each of the past six major tournaments, going back to when Loew was Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant in the 2006 World Cup.

Yet it is looking increasingly possible that Germany could be on course for a last-16 showdown with Brazil, four years after the 7-1 of Belo Horizonte.

“Right now I don’t think this is the time to start ruminating about that. There are still various possible outcomes,” insisted Loew.

SOCHI, Russia, June 24, 2018 (News Wires) - Germany’s heart-stopping 2-1 win over Sweden was a “rollercoaster ride” for fans and players alike but was also a triumph for calm thinking and patience, their coach Joachim Loew said Saturday.

The world champions went a goal down after 32 minutes and although Marco Reus equalised three minutes into the second half their hopes of retaining the title were hanging by a thread until Toni Kroos popped up in the fifth minute of stoppage time to score a sensational winner.

Loew said he knew Germany would find it hard to break down the Swedish defence but told his players at halftime to keep playing their usual brand of precision football.

“I told them to keep their calm in the next 45 minutes and to not start panicking and try to work long, high balls but to continue with short passes and go vertical to the wings and try to be incisive,” Loew told reporters.

“Something that I did appreciate was that we didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going down. We kept a level head, we said we needed to keep passing and tire the Swedes out and open up spaces. And in the second half the pressure built up more and more,” he added.

“We missed a couple of good chances but I appreciated the spirit of the team, we never lost hope of winning the match. The goal in stoppage time, there was bit of luck involved but it was also about believing in ourselves and powering on.”

Loew, who led the Germans to glory in Brazil four years ago, payed particular tribute to Kroos, the midfielder whose mistake led to Sweden’s goal from Ola Toivonen.

Kroos kept plugging away and his goal at the German end of Sochi’s Fisht Stadium provoked delirious scenes from their fans and the bench.

“I was very pleased for him,” Loew said. “He was obviously involved in the mistake with the Swedes scoring the first goal. It was an unfortunate incident but what he did very well was this free kick in the dying minutes.

“Of course this was a thriller, full of emotions, a rollercoaster ride,” Loew added.

“The last couple of minutes were full of drama but those matches exist in football. This is something that happens time and again and that is kind of the attractiveness for football fans that you have these matches.”

SOCHI, Russia, June 24, 2018 (News Wires) - A stoppage-time goal from Toni Kroos gave holders Germany a dramatic 2-1 win over Sweden Saturday to reignite their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup last 16.

Having lost their opening game to Mexico, the Germans looked to be heading for a draw until Kroos curled in a superb strike from wide on the left to secure victory for the four-times world champions.

They are now level with Sweden in Group F on three points, behind leaders Mexico who have six.

Sweden took the lead in the 32nd minute when Ola Toivonen finished confidently after Kroos gave the ball away in midfield, chesting the ball down expertly before lifting it over Manuel Neuer.

Marco Reus equalized in the 48th minute and despite having Jerome Boateng sent off in the 82nd minute, Germany kept going and Kroos’s shot five minutes into stoppage time earned them a famous win.

“We did not take our chances. We should have taken the lead in the opening minutes and we failed to do that (but) there is joy now,” Kroos told reporters.

“I know a lot of people would have been happy for us to be eliminated but we will not make it that easy for them ... now we must recover, we don’t have too much time, and we must beat South Korea.”

It was a cruel blow for the Swedes, who gave their all but came up just short.

“It’s probably the worst end of a game I’ve experienced in my career, that we didn’t get a draw, but the whole group is still alive, so we’ll have to lick our wounds and come back for the next one,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said

Defending deep and looking to counter, the Swedes started shakily but took the lead when they punished Kroos for giving the ball away by quickly finding Toivonen, who lifted the ball deftly over Neuer.

With Germany getting in behind Sweden’s full backs at will and fizzing passes across the box, it looked like a matter of time before they scored, but Toivonen’s goal gave Sweden breathing space.

Neuer saved the Germans from being 2-0 down at halftime, diving acrobatically to deflect Berg’s header from Sebastian Larsson’s stoppage-time free kick.

Reus connected with his knee to steer the ball home for the equalizer early in the second half to mark the beginning of a massive German offensive.

Substitute Mario Gomes gave the Germans a physical presence they had lacked, but he spurned two superb chances.

Boateng’s sending-off for his second yellow card eight minutes from time made little difference as the Germans continued to push forward in search of the winner.

Sweden had tired from their enormous defensive effort, but substitute John Guidetti should have done better than a lame shot, oblivious to the unmarked Emil Forsberg who was steaming through the middle.

From there the Germans launched the attack that led to substitute Jimmy Durmaz tripping Timo Werner and conceding the free kick that set up the chance for Kroos to curl in the winner.

The ball arced over helpless keeper Robin Olsen into the net, sparking an explosion of German joy on the bench and in the stands as the reigning champions kick-started their World Cup campaign.

“I told them to keep their calm in the next 45 minutes and to not start panicking and try to work long, high balls but to continue with short passes and go vertical to the wings and try to be incisive,” Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters.

“Something that I did appreciate was that we didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going down. And in the second half the pressure built up more and more,” he added.

 

CAIRO, June 23, 2018 (MENA) - Mayor of German city of Frankfurt Peter Feldmann arrived in Cairo on Saturday, leading a high-level delegation of parliamentarians.

The delegation is scheduled to meet with senior Egyptian officials.

ZURICH, June 23, 2018 (News Wires) - Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said on Saturday he expects a chain reaction across the European Union if Germany closes its borders to refugees.

"That's the logical consequence, and we are prepared for it and will similarly protect our borders," Strache told Austrian broadcaster Oe1's Mittagsjournal programme, adding that Italy was taking similar measures.

EU nations have been at loggerheads over migration since a spike in arrivals from the Middle East in 2015, when more than a million migrants reached its shores across the Mediterranean.

"It can't come to a renewed (migration) wave like the one seen in 2015 again," Strache said.

EU leaders will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the dispute, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel under pressure to reach a swift deal.

However, several countries have said they will boycott the meeting in Brussels, and a clash between Rome and Berlin has made a breakthrough unlikely.

Austria's Strache said the bloc must focus on controlling its external borders efficiently in order to bring illegal immigration to an end.

After a recent meeting with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Strache ruled out Italy, which has borne a large proportion of arrivals over the past five years, would begin allowing people through to other EU countries without registering them first.

Rome objects to suggestions that asylum seekers should be returned to the EU country they first registered in.

"Italy will not wave them through," Strache said.

SOCHI, June 23, 2018 (News Wires) - Germany can ill afford another slip-up when they take on Sweden at the World Cup on Saturday, as the defending champions attempt to follow Brazil's lead by belatedly springing into life.

Joachim Loew's side slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Mexico in their opening Group F match, paying the price for a calamitous first half in a performance that drew stinging, widespread criticism.

Lothar Matthaeus, the 1990 World Cup-winning captain, said he hadn't seen a Germany team “so weak at a big tournament for a long time” following the loss in Moscow.

The holders will likely be without defensive pillar Mats Hummels due to a neck injury, while Marco Reus could be handed a start after a bright 30-minute cameo off the bench against Mexico.

“Everyone is ready to fight for their lives,” said striker Timo Werner, who is again set to lead the Germany attack.

With 10 World Cup goals to his name, Germany will also expect more from Thomas Mueller at his third finals appearance.

“The pressure is terrifically high, but we won't win both games if we beat ourselves up internally and look for the mistakes in each other,” said Mueller, with Germany to meet South Korea in their final match.

Sweden beat the Koreans 1-0 to join Mexico at the top of the section, but a stomach bug has prevented three players - Pontus Jansson, Filip Helander and Marcus Rohden - from travelling to Sochi.

They could yet make the trip separately, with Sweden also hoping Victor Lindelof can return after sitting out the opener due to an illness of his own.

“This is really what you spend your whole career and life working towards. It is an extraordinary opportunity to be involved in a World Cup match like this,” said Sweden boss Janne Andersson.

“Whether we knock out Germany is one thing, but we have a chance to qualify and that is extraordinary.”

Brazil, one of several contenders to make a slow start in Russia, left it late before finally overcoming a plucky Costa Rica 2-0 Friday.

Neymar won a penalty before referee Bjorn Kuipers reversed his decision after he consulted the video assistant referee, the first time a spot-kick award has been chalked off at the tournament.

Philippe Coutinho broke the deadlock in the 91st minute, with Neymar volleying in a second with virtually the last kick of the game.

Brazil must pick up at least a point against Serbia next Wednesday to be assured of progressing, with Switzerland also in a strong position in Group E after Xherdan Shaqiri's 90th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory over Serbia.

Argentina received a lifeline in Group D as Ahmed Musa's brace sealed a 2-0 victory for Nigeria over Iceland, who saw Gylfi Sigurdsson sky a VAR-awarded penalty.

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