In the end, Jogi Löw's team had to walk right to the brink of defeat and back again in order for Germany to rediscover its love for Die Mannschaft. After a week of attacks on Germany's mental attitude, tactics, and the selection of individual players, the paper reviews of Saturday night's injury-time thriller against Sweden read like love letters.
Christian Spiller of Die Zeit describes Toni Kroos's winner in the fourth minute of extra time as "a hit that will enter the canon of great German World Cup goals". "Some day our children will ask us: where were you when Toni Kroos curled the ball over Robin Olsen's head?"
Of course, Spiller continues, the systemic flaws in the current line-up were there for everyone to see: too many balls lost in the build-up, leading to dangerous counter-attacks, and the lack of an impact player in attack, “no Ronaldo, no Lukaku, no Kane”. And yet: “Such an extraordinary goal at such an extraordinary point can change a team.”
The tabloid Bild is also happy to ignore the glaring tactical deficiencies as long as the Germany XI stick to the changed attitude from the Mexico match. “It’s true Jogi’s boys still haven’t found their form of 2014, but the team that managed to find itself last night is worth sticking to, especially with Reus in attack, with Werner, with Gomez and also with Müller. If you turn around games like these, you can still go on to achieve great things”.
Kroos’s “piece of legerdemain”, writes the broadsheet Welt optimistically, “could waken the desire that manager Joachim Löw’s team has lost in recent weeks”.
“With his goal, Kroos applied a defibrilator to the lethargic German eleven. Against Sweden Germany was already clinically dead. Now it is brimming with strength.”
The Real Madrid midfielder is inevitably at the heart of much German soul-searching today. Süddeutsche Zeitung describes with fascination how the 28-year-old northern German, usually a “walking ice box”, fell to his knees at the final whistle and drummed the pitch with his fists. All the key moments in the match had been his: the brain-freeze that brought Sweden their lead, the successful pass to Timo Werner that set up the equaliser, and then that piece of sublime skill in injury time.
Going into the crunch match with Sweden, pressure on Kroos had been greater than at any time in his career, Spiegel Online notes. “The authority figures of the past, from Lahm to Schweinsteiger to Klose, are no longer there, and those of today, from Khedira to Müller, are struggling.”
But Saturday night’s 2-1 win changed the dynamic. “However long this German team will survive in the tournament: after the match against Sweden Kroos has properly taken charge of the leadership role.” - Guardian service