Toni Kroos kept Germany's World Cup hopes alive, salvaging a second chance from the jaws of premature elimination for the defending champions against Sweden on Saturday.

Following that 95th-minute strike, Kroos' name is already on the teamsheet that coach Joachim Löw submits for his side's final group fixture against South Korea on Wednesday. A blank will need to be filled in alongside the former Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich midfielder, however.

After Sami Khedira played the first game, Sebastian Rudy started the second and Ilkay Gündogan replaced him after injury in the first half, several options have already been tested. runs the rule over all of Löw’s midfield options alongside Kroos, ahead of Germany’s pivotal final group stage game.

1) Sami Khedira

Khedira is highly respected and has already captained his country. © gettyimages / Lars Baron

Khedira was the man Löw picked in Germany's opening World Cup fixture - a 1-0 defeat to Mexico - and the Juventus midfielder is certainly no stranger to pressure cooker situations. A winner of domestic league titles in Germany, Spain and Italy, the 31-year-old has proven his robustness – physical and mental – by lifting the Champions League with Real Madrid and helping Germany to the last World Cup final. 

He provides stability, tactical nous and no short amount of composure, allowing Kroos that little bit more freedom, safe in the knowledge his back is covered. He did not, however, play a part in the 2-1 win over Sweden, although his reaction was, in itself, a positive show of team spirit. "We've got a big squad and it's not the end of the world if somebody doesn't play," said assistant coach Marcus Sorg. "He was exemplary."

2) Sebastian Rudy

"Stop, I'm Sebastian Rudy and you're not getting past me" - the Bayern midfielder could be Kroos' ideal decoy. © imago

Taking Khedira's place against Sweden was Bayern midfielder Rudy, although he lasted only half an hour before being forced off with a broken nose, which keeps him out of the meeting with the Taeguk Warriors on Wednesday, but not the tournament. With an average of just 44 minutes per game in his first season with Bayern, the 28-year-old may lack match practice, but he showed plenty in that half hour to suggest he would be Löw's pick, just as long as he is fit.

He fractured his nose and was removed two minutes before Sweden took the lead, having provided excellent cover to the defence and given an added air of assuredness to the entire defensive unit in Sochi. With Rudy ruled out against South Korea, Löw may plump for a more creative option - goals are required, after all.

3) Ilkay Gündogan

Ilkay Gündogan has the creativity of a Brazilian, and could well be under consideration against Korea. © imago / Jan Huebner

Gündogan, who replaced Rudy against Sweden, certainly fits into that category. The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who won the English Premier League with Manchester City last season, arguably has the edge when it comes to creativity. He steered in four goals for City last term and, like Khedira, has featured in critical games, such as the 2013 Champions League final, in which he scored Dortmund's equaliser against Bayern. 

A box-to-box midfielder who regularly covers over 12 kilometres per game, Gündogan's presence may force Kroos to play a little deeper and share the defensive duties, although having Gündogan advance with the ball at his feet is an equally attractive option. Indeed, his distribution and passing accuracy have earned him a reputation for being one of the most adept deep-lying playmakers in the world, arguably adding another Kroos-like string to Germany's bow.

4) Leon Goretzka

Watch: Goretzka's Top 5 Bundesliga goals!

If it is a goalscoring threat that Löw is looking for, meanwhile, then Bayern-bound Goretzka could be a more viable alternative. The 23-year-old has an outstanding record of six goals in just 15 caps for Germany, albeit starting regularly in a more advanced position than the one Löw will be looking to fill on Wednesday – unless some tactical tinkering is undertaken. 

Comfortable on the ball with excellent close control and a burst of pace, the Schalke product could be the ideal link between defence and attack when, inevitably, Korea look to score the goals they need to keep their own qualification hopes alive. Indeed, with no alternative but to win the game, Korea can be expected to come at Germany, whose most potent weapon could then be their transitions - just the area in which Goretzka excels.

5) Niklas Süle

Niklas Süle's height could come in handy, while his defensive ability might also be needed against Korea. © imago / DeFodi

Fielding too many attack-minded players in midfield could be considered a little bit too risky, and Löw could go the opposite way entirely by naming Süle in a position he filled on occasions for Bayern this season: as an auxiliary defender, just ahead of the back four with a more defensive remit than any of the other candidates. It could be a wise choice in view of the aforementioned tactics likely to be employed by Korea, bearing in mind that Germany cannot afford to lose this game.

However, what may appear at first glance to be a negative move could have a positive motivation behind it. He dominated proceedings against Hannover when starting in central midfield last season – amassing 111 touches, which weren't all tackles either, although he won a game-high 16 of those: Süle saw out the 90 minutes with a 95 per cent pass completion, finding a team-mate with 82 perfectly weighted passes - and scored from the same position one week later against Eintracht Frankfurt, having been played in on goal.

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