Brought in to revive Germany's flagging World Cup campaign, live-wire forward Marco Reus did not disappoint, scoring a crucial equaliser that pulled Joachim Loew's holder back from the brink of an unthinkable early exit.
The forward's 48th-minute strike came before he teed up Toni Kroos for the stoppage-time winner, as he vindicated Loew's decision to hand him a starting place. Brought in for his first World Cup start ahead of the under-fire Mesut Ozil, who had been heavily criticised by German media, Reus is lethal with his right foot.
But it was with his left that he stabbed home a low Timo Werner cross that took a touch off striker Mario Gomez. “We showed team spirit after Sweden went 1-0 up, that was a setback and we had to digest that, but we knew we could claw it back,” said the 29-year-old Reus.
While a defeat would still have eliminated the holder, a draw would still have left it on the verge of a sensational early exit. That meant the stunning right-footed effort from Kroos that sealed a 2-1 win sparked delirious scenes among German fans and players.
“The fact Toni put it away like that is incredible — he has shown that talent on previous occasions. I pay my respect to him for doing what he did,” said Reus.
The Borussia Dortmund forward has been dogged with injuries that forced him to miss out on the victorious 2014 World Cup campaign and Euro 2016. Then last year he tore a cruciate ligament in the German Cup final.
‘Room to improve’
Back at full strength in time for this World Cup, he was one of the few Germans to look dangerous in last Sunday's shock 1-0 defeat to Mexico after coming off the bench in the second half. German media slated Loew and his team for that dismal defeat, and called for wholesale changes in a rancourous build-up to Saturday's game.
Reus said that he felt that “many Germans were looking forward to us being knocked out.” “There is still room to improve...but we are looking forward to next match,” he said.