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World Cup 2018: Marco Reus is key to Germany's hope of title defence

ANALYST
Feature
417   //    26 Jun 2018, 03:10 IST

Germany v Sweden: Group F - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Marco Reus was a breath of fresh air in the pressure match against Sweden.

The world held its breath as Toni Kroos and Marco Reus lined up at an acute angle to the goalposts for one last attempt at an improbable victory. Down to ten men and formerly down a goal, the World Champions had been staring down the barrel for much of this difficult encounter against the steely Swedes.

They had already lost their opening fixture against a resurgent Mexico and even a 1-1 draw would have seen Die Mannschaft sink even further into the unprecedented quicksand that Joachim Low's side had found itself in its quest to defend the crown it so majestically lifted in Brazil four years ago.

Kroos, one of the architects of that triumph, looked on with steely determination before doing a one-two with Reus and then launching a vicious curler. Everyone knows what happened next. The Real Madrid man engineered a last-gasp victory that brought back Germany into the World Cup.

Reus - eternally unlucky

One man who is being overlooked in the hullabaloo surrounding Kroos' magnificent strike is the man who lined up beside him for the free-kick and scored the goal that equalized the score earlier after Sweden had run Germany ragged in the first half.

The Swedes had knocked out the Netherlands and Italy, two eternal powerhouses of the global game during qualifying and had looked set to engender an ignominious exit for the Germans.

In a first half where a string of razor-sharp counter attacks had led to Ola Toivonen opening the scoring and a close penalty shout being turned down by the referee, the brightest spark for the Germans in the game was Reus who worked tirelessly along the right wing.

However Reus, possibly one of the best creative players of his generation did not get a winners medal in the 2014 World Cup.

He had watched it at home after being forced out of the tournament due to an ankle injury. He also watched his mates slug it out at the Euro 2016 on his telly after missing that tournament with a groin strain.

Before the 2014 tournament started, he was a vital cog in coach Joachim Low's plans, having scored 5 times and assisted thrice in the qualifiers. But his propensity to get injured at the worst-possible times has made the Borussia Dortmund man probably the unluckiest German footballer of his generation.

Clamor for his return

With the men in white and black disintegrated in their opening fixture and Reus only being brought on as a substitute, there was immense clamor back in his home country for him to be included in the starting XI.

Low answered those calls and the nimble, skillful attacker shifted to the wings. Even with the side a goal down, he never for a moment seemed dispirited and went on one attacking foray after the other.

In fact, with Kroos helping out the harried back-line, Reus seemed to have taken on more responsibility in the second half, switching wings, creating openings and getting at the end of one to resuscitate the German campaign.

Main man

Low's Germany had attained a considerable amount of success in recent years. His ideology of lightning fast passing and positional changes has reaped rich dividends.

For most of his squad that includes such leading lights of international football as Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng, maintaining the hunger could be an issue.

Reus though is hungry for success in national colors, he has missed those successes. The pain of 2014 especially, will still be rankling. Thus, for Germany to really compete with their title contenders, Reus could be the key.

His selection ahead of the under-performing Mesut Ozil was instrumental in restoring Germany's attacking teeth in the last match. He seems injury-free, nimble and determined. He could be the key for Die Mannschaft in their parlous quest to defend the World Cup.

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