Kroos comes to the rescue as holders Germany stun Sweden in the final few seconds

Toni award: The German star saves the day with his winner five minutes into stoppage time

Germany survived a real scare to avoid a first World Cup group stage elimination since 1938 as they escaped thanks to Toni Kroos’ late, late winner.

A goal down because of Ola Toivonen’s measured lob, the four-time winners were staring down the barrel of a gun at half-time but performed a stunning recovery to remain in the tournament.

They looked to be on their way home after just two games but Joachim Löw’s changes paid off and the Germans live to fight another day.

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Marco Reus salvaged the situation two minutes after half-time time to get Germany back on terms.

They did it with ten men when Jérôme Boateng, who picked up a second yellow card inside the final ten minutes, was sent off. But Kross’ magical winner five minutes in to stoppage time means Sweden need to beat Mexico in the final game to stop them going through in their place.

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Although that was the hallmark of a champion, this was a Houdini-level escape act.

They were let off the hook early on. Germany susceptible to the quick counter attack again and showing why they suffered a shock opening game upset.

Marcus Berg, in the clear having been played in by Toivonen, showed the Germany backline a clean set of heels.

Manuel Neuer was quick off his line to block but the Swedes were convinced the forward was tripped by the lagging Boateng.

There was no stopping his strike partner.

Wonderful finish: Ola Toivonen puts Sweden a goal ahead

Viktor Claesson’s raking pass was perfection and Toivonen did the rest. His chest control was out of this world and his lofted shot made the world’s best Neuer look normal. Perfection as he placed the ball over the giant German, and the holders all of a sudden need something very special.

One clean sheet in ten games now for Löw’s vulnerable and unrecognisable side painted a picture of their frailty. But mental strength doesn’t disappear as quickly.  

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Sweden knew they would need more than just their strikers on song. Robin Olsen, their experienced goalkeeper, offered resistance with a double save with half-time looming. At the other end had Claesson shot first time instead of trying to be too clever, it could have been all but over for the holders.

It really could have been done by the break. Berg’s flicked header from Larson’s cross was finger-tipped around the post by Neuer, Germany in total disarray at half-time.

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Löw had to react. Mario Gomez introduced for the the ineffective Julian Draxler and the changes the made the difference right away.

Timo Werner’s cross was flicked on by the substitute and Reus swept home. Salvation, but still work to do.

Germany then turned the screw. Kroos’ shot sailed just wide with Olsen well-beaten before Muller’s header fell just the wrong side of the post.

The 2014 winners continued to make inroads, knowing if they didn’t get a winner there was still every chance they wouldn’t make the second round.

Kroos control: the Germany midfielder fires in a late, late winner to turn the group on its head

But their hopes of a winner took a hammer blow with ten minutes to go when Boateng picked up  a second yellow card. It was a wretched night for the centre-back.

They did better without him. Gomez was then denied by a fantastic Olsen save with three minutes to go and they through it wasn’t to be their day.

Step forward Kross, the man for the big occasion. His free-kick was full-throttle, and his celebrations 100 miles an hour.

You wonder how big a moment this will be not only for Germany, but for the entire tournament.