2018 FIFA World Cup (Group F):
- Germany 2-1 Sweden
- Mexico 2-1 South Korea
What happened Saturday night in the Sochi Olympic stadium defied earthly norms in enough ways that it wound up altering the brain until the scene looked misshapen.
So it finally kind of made a demented sense in the 95th minute when the whole thing drifted into psychedelia, as Germany’s relieved players went streaming down the sideline to heave into a festive pile in the stadium corner, having just beheld Toni Kroos’s whiplash winner.
They did so as German fans boomed a sound German fans never boom, that unmistakable sound of escape.
What in the World Cup was this 2-1 win by Germany over Sweden?
It was a second group game that came off feeling like some gasping semifinal or some death scrap in a prairie.
It was an event that gave its 44,287 witnesses an experience nobody ever has, that of seeing Germany — Germany, that staple of reliability! — running around all night on a precipice, when the whole idea of Germany is often about the avoidance of precipice.
It was a night spent with a defending World Cup champion that hasn’t fallen short of a semifinal this century looking like it might be eliminated after two first-round losses — as it would have if Sweden’s 1-0 halftime lead had held — or if it might drift near the early-exit door, as it would have with a draw on Saturday.
Now Germany has three points in Group F alongside Sweden behind front-running Mexico on six, even as the people who saw it play Sweden will carry home memories soccer fans so seldom have.
They saw a German defense — the German defense, that bulwark of life on Earth! — look downright harum-scarum against the Swedish counterattack.
They saw Germany’s Jerome Boateng look so hopeless that in the 12th minute he had to shove Sweden’s Marcus Berg on a breakaway, and should have gotten carded there with Sweden taking a penalty kick, yet didn’t, yet somehow managed two other cards anyway to depart the premises in the 82nd minute.
Then they saw Germany operate with 10 men from there, yet still hang out around the Swedish goal as if it had 12, so that Germany’s 77-percent possession sometimes felt like 101.
A fine mass of passes around the box in the 88th minute established Mario Gomez’s header that goalkeeper Robin Olsen saved, and another threat in the 92nd wound up with Julian Brandt driving from 20 yards and smacking the right post of the goal.
In the last group F matches, Mexico plays Sweden on Wednesday, 27th June 2018 in Yekaterinburg.
South Korea will face off with GermanyMexico in Kazan at the same time.
[Additional notes by Washington Post]