Berlin – Fans danced in the rain in Berlin on Saturday as defending champions Germany avoided an embarrassing World Cup exit with a 2-1 win over Sweden.
Thousands of supporters watching on big screens at the Brandenburg Gate huddled nervously under grey clouds and drizzle, before throwing their umbrellas away as Toni Kroos’ late winner saved Germany.
“I’m so, so so happy,” screamed Rasdan Abdullah as the final whistle sounded in Sochi.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Birgit Schlag, who had come to Berlin to see the Rolling Stones in concert the day before.
The rain had just begun to fall in the German capital as Ola Toivonen fired Sweden ahead on the half-hour mark, and grey clouds lingered as the crowd sung “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at half-time.
They breathed a sigh of relief when Marco Reus equalised just after the break.
And when Kroos curled in a free-kick in the fifth minute of injury-time, the fans were in ecstasy.
“I said before the game that Reus would score,” said a beaming Dieter Mann, a 60-year-old tour guide with Germany flags stuck to his head.
“It was the right decision to pick him and drop Mesut Ozil.”
“Defeat for us today was about as likely as England winning the World Cup,” said 37-year-old jobseeker Marcel Kreisel, and fell about laughing.
Having slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat against Mexico in their opening game, Germany had to beat Sweden to avoid elimination and keep alive their dreams of retaining the World Cup.
With Mexico top of Group F after winning their second match on Saturday, Germany play South Korea on Wednesday knowing they must do as well as the Swedes against Mexico if they are to progress to the knockout round.
“A man down! Crazy! Thanks for the comeback and good luck to the national team,” Steffen Seibert, the spokesman of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.
The German media were just as relieved.
“Kroos and Reus rescue our World Cup hopes,” was the headline on Germany’s top-selling daily Bild, adding: “My God was that important!”
“Blood, sweat and tears. And then came Kroos,” was the headline on Berlin-based national daily Die Welt, while Frankfurt’s FAZ went for “Germany win with a shot of luck”.
“Kroos twists the hope back,” was Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung’s take.
Former international Thomas Hitzlsperger said the win could galvanise the team as they had battled to victory despite the sending off of key defender Jerome Boateng late in the game.
“There was a lot of criticism (after the defeat against Mexico),” Hitzlsperger said.
“So to win a match like that when we were a man down it could be a very big World Cup for this team.
“We can see by what happened that the players are closing ranks and getting tighter.”