If we were in Joachim Low, we wouldn’t be much concerned at Germany’s 0-1 loss to Mexico in their opening match in Russia. The history of the World Cup is full of occurrences where the defending champions tripped during their first dance, from Argentina in 1990, to France in 2002. And when the loss comes at the hand of a solid and spectacular Mexican side, there is little to be ashamed about.
The calendar indeed offers prompt chances for redeem, and Germany displayed their well-known organization, as well as the right mindset – well exemplified by their returning captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer pushing himself up into the opponent’s area during extra time, in a desperate late attempt to equalise.
But the applauses of the day are all for coach Juan Carlos Osorio’s Tricolores, an eternal last minute loser in the history of the world championship. Mexico always seems on edge of breaking through and making the big World Cup hit, before some circumstance invariably pushes them out of the tournament before the Quarter Finals are over. Take four years ago, for instance: Mexico were leading their Round of 16 game against the Netherlands until the 88th minute, when Arjen Robben and Rafael Van der Vaart turned it around in two minutes…
Destiny sometimes pays back, and today it was a 23-year-old pixie named Hirving “Chucky” Lozano – who plays right in the Netherlands for PSV Eindhoven – to push Mexico towards their shocking upset, scoring the goal that gave them three points, after turning the Germans crazy with his dashes on the left flank. Still, it was the entire Tricolores to go over the top, defending well even when the Germans were furiously attacking, and stinging like a mosquito every time the European side fatally left themselves uncovered.
Mexico also found some additional support from a roaring Luzhniki Stadium, a boiling pot filled with three-colored flags. Their choral chanting of the National Anthem before kick-off was thrilling, and made it clear that, more than ever, Osorio’s boys were going to benefit from the so-called “12th man” today.
Coach Joachim Low lined up Die Mannschaft with a 4-2-3-1 module, Timo Werner being the central striker, supported by Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, and Julian Draxler – a lineup whose announcement by the stadium speaker should be enough to scare any team. Osorio relied on a similar module, with El Chicharito Javier Hernandez leading the attacking troops. Later in the game, he also sent in his monumental captain Rafael Marquez, who thus became the second player in history to play in five different World Cup editions.
The match followed a common pattern in the first half, with Germany patiently building their game, one small brick at a time like in a Lego construction set, only to see the Mexicans tore it down and counterattack on the other side. The winning chance for Mexico came in the 36th minute, when El Chicharito Hernandez advanced with the ball, then unloaded it to the left – where he saw Chucky Lozano running like a train. PSV’s forward got rid of Mesut Ozil, and fulminated Neuer with a quick sharp shot for Mexico’s 1-0.
The reaction of Die Mannschaft was in a free kick by Tony Kroos, which goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa defused with the help of the crossbar. Then, it was Mexico again, with another counterattack in the 42nd minute failing only because Carlos Vela waited just one second too much, allowing a panting German squad to recover.
Counterattacks expectedly became slower in the last 45 minutes, and defense more labored, but Ochoa never gave the impression of being close to capitulate. Miguel Layun wasted a favorable chance, at the end of the umpteenth counter, but he was exhausted, as most of the Mexican squad. Germany kept doing the same: Attacking with order, first one step at a time, then more aggressively as minutes kept passing, waiting for a mistake that never came.
In the 64th minute, a cross by Jerome Boateng picked defender Joshua Kimmich alone in Mexico’s area. Kimmich’s attempted overhead provided a good phot-opp for photographers, but ended well above Ochoa’s goal. Substitute Julian Brandt, who took the place of Werner when Low was going all in, was more dangerous – first with a shot that splintered the post, then missing the target by inches during a final melee into the Mexican box.
The score didn’t chance, despite Germany attacking with 11 men, Neuer included. The first big upset of World Cup 2018 is served. Mexico, maybe this is really the right time.
June 17, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool F
SCORER: 35′ Lozano
|GERMANY (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Plattenhardt (80′ Gomez); Khedira (60′ Reus), Kroos; Muller, Ozil, Draxler; Werner (86′ Brandt) (Ter Stegen, Trapp, Ginter, Goretzka, Sule, Rudy, Rudiger, Gundogan) Coach: Löw|
|MEXICO (4-2-3-1): Ochoa; Salcedo, Ayala, Moreno, Gallardo; Herrera, Guardado (74′ Marquez); Layun, Vela (58′ Alvarez), Lozano (66′ Raul Jimenez); Hernandez (Corona, Talavera, Marquez, Gutierrez, J. Dos Santos, Fabian, G. Dos Santos, Jesus C., Peralta, Aquino) Coach: Osorio|
REFEREE: Faghani (Iran)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Hummels, Muller (G), Moreno, Herrera (M)