Maybe, just maybe it was written in the stars. One could sense it when the Mexican team belted out their national anthem with a thunderous echo from the stadium in accompaniment. And as the 35-minute minute mark struck, Hirving Lozano skipped inside Mats Hummels to finish with aplomb and spark madness in the stands. As Chicharito lay in tears of joy at the end, a neutral would realise passion on the field prevailed over quality on paper. For once, efficiency could not usurp emotion.
Germany never looked their natural selves at any stage. While Joshua Kimmich is a player of wonderful promise,his inability to close spaces in his defensive zone proved fatal. Within a few moments of the game starting, Lozano was allowed to have a pop at goal, deflecting off Boateng. Mexico continued to sit and soak up the pressure, breaking at thrilling pace. Hector Herrera had a shot from distance, and Hector Moreno managed to poke a good headed effort at goal. Germany had the odd flash, with Kimmich putting a delicious cross in, twitched away by Carlos Salcedo. Timo Werner also had a half shot at goal on the swivel.
However, Mexico continued to drive on the break, with Carlos Vela nearly threading the perfect ball for Miguel Layun to latch onto around the 34-minute mark. The moment did arrive, a few seconds later. Germany were caught napping on the ball in midfield. And from there followed a lightning break. Javier Hernandez rapidly exchanged passes and played Lozano in. Lozano, with a deft touch, skipped inside Mesut Ozil before driving a shot past Neuer. Chucky had announced himself at the World’s biggest stage.
A small artificial earthquake detected in Mexico City “possibly due to mass jumping” when Mexico scored against Germany https://t.co/9arKFZHORU
— Kirk Semple (@KirkSemple) June 17, 2018
Die Mannschaft nearly got back immediately, with a superb Toni Kroos free-kick crashing onto the bar via Guillermo Ochoa’s gloves. The second half did not have quite the intensity of the first, as Mexico sat back. Germany however never really offered the cutting edge. It was more huff, puff and splutter. There were a lot of moments when they expected something to magically happen, rather than attack the game with vigour.
If anything, Mexico had chances to grab more goals. Hernandez fluffed his lines when tasked with playing Vela in on a 2 on 1 scenario. Marco Reus was brought on, and while he upped the directness and tempo, failed to help Germany create clear goalmouth action. Layun contrived to miss two good chances in quick succession. Germany knew the game was just not meant to be when Mario Gomez missed a great header and Julian Brandt caught hold of a cleared ball brilliantly, only for it to clip the post on the way out.
Let’s relive that Lozano goal again.. what a counter attack and a stellar finish. #GERMEX
— Soccer Laduma (@Soccer_Laduma) June 17, 2018
Mexico as a team put a hard shift in. Javier Hernandez bust a gut with his running and industry. Carlos Vela and Layun had a poor end product, but their running and desire cannot be faulted. Man for man, Mexico had the measure of Germany and their defense did a fine job keeping them at bay. Ochoa’s heroics from the Kroos free-kick also deserves mention. The star man, however, was Lozano, the one who tormented Germany down their right and took his goal with ice cool instincts.
For Germany however, the game throws up worrying questions. Their midfield was bypassed for the bulk of the first half. While Kroos put himself about, Khedira and Ozil were passengers. Better performances must follow. Joshua Kimmich was naive at the back, and that cost his team dear. Hummels was also prone to the odd error at the back. Up front, a lack of cohesiveness between Muller, Werner and Draxler also existed. This should be however largely down to poor service from those behind. These are things that will demand Low’s attention in training.
Some trivia from the match
- Rafael Marquez of Mexico became only the 3rd man in history to have featured in five world cups. The former Barcelona man has a wealth of experience rarely present now in the game.
- Germany follows up a champions jinx, becoming the 3rd consecutive champion to fail to win their opening game at the next edition. They follow Italy and Spain. Mexico have now won their opening game 5 out of the last 6 times at the world cup.
- Germany huffed and puffed, managing 26 shots yet firing a blank. This is the most aside has managed since Portugal in 2006 against England, firing 29 then.
- This is also the first competitive game Mexico have bested Germany in. There is some cause for German optimism. The last time they lost their opening game, in 1982, they made the final. Their fans will hope that can happen again.
An engaging first half filled with thrills from Mexico offered us glimpses of what they can do. The likes of Lozano are ones to watch out for in the latter stages of the tournament. Mexico are perennial Round of 16 candidates, but this lot look like they can go further. Their fighting spirit and defensive integrity got them through this game, but they are no bus parking outfit. With plenty of pace and skill on the break, they can offer much more drama in the coming days.
German fans must be worried, and rightly so. A breeze through qualification and the tag of World champion could have induced complacency. A prevalent flatness and underwhelming nature of their play must quickly disappear. With Sweden and South Korea to go, Germany should still get out the group. But if they end up finishing second, they could draw Brazil if results pan out as expected. And this could be a result that gives them much to bother about. But today is not about a German collapse. It is about a freedom of Mexican spirit and the emotion with which they play their football. It warmed all of us, and these are the kind of stories we watch the World Cup for.
Feature Image via NY Times
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Marquez Image via ABC7 News