Germany must learn their lesson from squandering a four-goal lead against Sweden in their 2014 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday if they are to take the next step towards becoming a championship-winning team.
Germany coach Joachim Low was left speechless after his team allowed Sweden to score four times in the second half for a 4-4 draw in Berlin.
The hosts, who saw their 13-games winning streak in Euro and World Cup qualifiers come to an end, were like two entirely different teams in each half.
A dazzling display of attacking football in the opening 45 minutes ripped Sweden to shreds, with the Germans scoring seemingly at will. The power, pace and skill on display offered no indication of the implosion that was to follow.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic launched the fightback in the 62nd minute and Mikael Lustig added another goal two minutes later. Johan Elmander cut Germany's lead to 4-3 in the 76th minute and Rasmus Elm grabbed an unlikely equaliser just before the final whistle.
With his team under fire since losing in the Euro 2012 semi-finals and then putting in two lacklustre performances in their opening Group C qualifiers, Low had wanted to seal a solid World Cup qualifying start with a win.
He has been accused of being too soft on his players who, according to critics, show none of the team spirit of veteran German squads that made up for their lack of technique and skill with power and determination.
Those teams had the kind of spirit that had helped Germany fight back from deficits in the past and the 70,000 fans in Berlin's Olympic stadium were stunned into silence as they saw Sweden turning the tables on the home side.
"I am in a state of shock," Low told reporters. "For us this should be a life lesson. A lesson in how one should finish off a game. I simply have no explanation for what happened."
Germany's 6-1 demolition of Ireland last week had made it three wins from three 2014 World Cup qualifiers and went some way to silencing the critics but Tuesday's catastrophe will surely reignite debate about whether this team can end their 16-year title drought.
"I never expected to see my team thrown off rhythm like that," said Low. "It was something that had to do with their head and we are all bitterly disappointed.
"But we will not be thrown off track. This may be a game where you can learn something for life."
This was not the first time in recent years that Germany allowed rivals to come back from a seemingly one-sided game but it was certainly the most spectacular.
Team manager Oliver Bierhoff said Germany must not simply sweep the result under the carpet.
"It is important that we do not return to our daily routines but that we analyse this game in the cold light of day," he said.comments