SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Germany’s heart-stopping 2-1 win over Sweden was a “rollercoaster ride” for fans and players alike but was also a triumph for calm thinking and patience, their coach Joachim Loew said on Saturday.
The world champions went a goal down after 32 minutes and although Marco Reus equalized three minutes into the second half their hopes of retaining the title were hanging by a thread until Toni Kroos popped up in the fifth minute of stoppage time to score a sensational winner.
Loew said he knew Germany would find it hard to break down the Swedish defense but told his players at halftime to keep playing their usual brand of precision football.
“I told them to keep their calm in the next 45 minutes and to not start panicking and try to work long, high balls but to continue with short passes and go vertical to the wings and try to be incisive,” Loew told reporters.
“Something that I did appreciate was that we didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going down. We kept a level head, we said we needed to keep passing and tire the Swedes out and open up spaces. And in the second half the pressure built up more and more,” he added.
“We missed a couple of good chances but I appreciated the spirit of the team, we never lost hope of winning the match. The goal in stoppage time, there was bit of luck involved but it was also about believing in ourselves and powering on.”
Loew, who led the Germans to glory in Brazil four years ago, payed particular tribute to Kroos, the midfielder whose mistake led to Sweden’s goal from Ola Toivonen.
Kroos kept plugging away and his goal at the German end of Sochi’s Fisht Stadium provoked delirious scenes from their fans and the bench.
“I was very pleased for him,” Loew said. “He was obviously involved in the mistake with the Swedes scoring the first goal. It was an unfortunate incident but what he did very well was this free kick in the dying minutes.
“Of course this was a thriller, full of emotions, a rollercoaster ride,” Loew added.
“The last couple of minutes were full of drama but those matches exist in football. This is something that happens time and again and that is kind of the attractiveness for football fans that you have these matches.”
Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond