Germany kept their hopes of qualifying from Group F alive with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Sweden.
Despite the triumph and the ensuing scenes of unbridled jubilation though, all is not well within the German camp.
Regular starters Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira were left out of Joachim Low’s starting lineup, and perhaps more discerningly, did not feature off the bench when changes were made in an attempt to find a way back into the game.
Sweden looked to have made the non-selection of Ozil and Khedira look daft when they took a 1-0 lead into the break, but the Germans came out playing for their World Cup lives in the second half, and within three minutes of the restart found themselves level through a Marco Reus goal.
Toni Kroos broke Swedish hearts with the last kick of the game in the 95th minute, scoring a free-kick from the edge of the box after an initial one-two with Reus.
The win puts Germany level on points with Sweden, and three behind group-leaders Mexico, with a game against bottom-of-the-group South Korea still to play.
Division within the German ranks
According to multiple sources close to the side, the German camp has been divided into two – the bizarrely named ‘Bling-bling gang’ and ‘the Bavarians.’
The ‘Bling-bling gang’ comprises of Julian Draxler, Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng and Sami Khedira, while ‘the Bavarians’ includes Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Toni Kroos.
Reportedly, the main issue between the groups is that the former believes the latter could have done more to persuade Low to include Leroy Sane in the Germany squad.
While the given names of these cliques seems quite laughable, it is not such a stretch to imagine such a split existing within the camp.
Following the Germans’ prior loss to Mexico, Hummels told the media that he believed the result was coming, but shielded himself from blame in the process.
“Mexico deserved the win. Our cover was often not good and we were left many times with just Jerome [Boateng] and myself in the back,” he said.
Reasonably speaking, one comment that is quite factual in nature does not mean that the squad-harmony was most certainly disturbed, but the non-selection of Ozil and Khedira, the day after the rumors of a drift were first alleged, did not do much to quell the speculation of disharmony within the ranks of the defending world champions.
Germany’s destiny still not completely in their own hands
The dynamic within Group F is quite fascinating – all three of Sweden, Germany and Mexico could finish the group-stage with the same number of points, goals scored and goals conceded, which will then see the group decided on a three-way head-to-head tie-breaker.
If Sweden beat Mexico 1-0 and Germany topple South Korea with the same scoreline, the top-three teams will all finish on six points, three goals scored and two goals conceded.
At that point, South Korea will be taken out of the equation, and the group will be decided based on the results between the top-three, effectively ruling the games against South Korea as void, making it a three-team round-robin.
If all of those things were to happen, all three teams would still be tied on points, but Germany would top the group on goals-scored, finishing on three, with Sweden going through in second with two goals and Mexico missing out with just the one in two games.
It is all a bit difficult to get one’s head around, and luckily for most, it probably will not come down to that – but if it does, Mexico will definitely be ruing their missed chances against the Germans in match-day one.
Sweden expose Die Mannschaft defensive fragility as not a one-off
When Mexico got in behind Germany’s defence time and time again in the first round, they were believed to have just matched up well against a German defence that lacked stability in the full-back areas.
But Sweden threatened Die Mannschaft’s defence regularly throughout the game, particularly in the first half, and not even the return of left-back Jonas Hector, who missed the first game with illness, could do much to stabilise the German defence against a modest Swedish attack.
Germany’s full-backs have never been the strongest – Emre Can was the designated right-back at the 2014 World Cup, with Philip Lahm moving into the center of midfield, and Can is a central-midfielder himself by trade.
Hector plays his club football for FC Koln, a side that was relegated from the Bundesliga this season – a damning indictment on the quality of players available for selection in the left-back position.
In actuality, Borussia Dortmund captain Marcus Schmelzer is available for selection, but he has never been in favour at national level and has not won a cap since 2014.
Low has had the ability to drop and select whichever players he sees fit in the past, but if Germany ultimately do bow out in the group stage, he may find himself with a lot to answer for.