It is time for the semi-final showdown in Sochi between Joachim Löw’s young Germany team and an experienced Mexico outfit, with the winners meeting Chile in the final in St. Petersburg. In a tense semi-final in Kazan, the South American champions would overcome European Champions Portugal 3-0 in a penalty shootout after a goalless draw.
Germany have only lost once to Mexico in the ten internationals played between the two countries, and are unbeaten in competitive matches. Since their first tournament meeting in the 1978 World Cup where Helmut Schön’s side eased to a 6-0 triumph, there have been three further meetings. Franz Beckenbauer’s team would overcome the 1986 hosts in a penalty shootout in the boiling heat of Monterrey, Berti Vogts’ Mannschaft then came from behind to engineer a 2-1 triumph in the World Cup in France in 1998, and in what was arguably the most dramatic meeting in the 2005 Confederations Cup in Leipzig, Jürgen Klinsmann’s young team edged to a dramatic 4-3 win in extra time to claim third place in the tournament.
In keeping with his policy of rotation, Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw has made a few small tweaks that beat Cameroon in their final group stage match. Jonas Hector, Leon Goretzka and Lars Stindl all return, while Benjamin Henrichs makes his first start. Niklas Süle, Kerem Demirbay, Marvin Plattenhardt and Emre Can are all on the bench.
There’s an interesting look to the lineup, with a flexible back line and defensive midfield unit combined with a powerful attacking quartet. In fact, there is a preponderance of attack-minded players. Joshua Kimmich, Hector and Henrichs at the back, and two attackers in Stindl and Timo Werner supported by Goretzka and skipper Julian Draxler.
It is a warm evening in Sochi, and the two teams make their way out for the national anthems. All of the German starting eleven in good voice, and the Mexicans as usual are full of gusto to the strains of Mexicanos, al grito de guerra.
1 min. Germany get this semi-final showpiece underway, kitted out once again in their usual black and white ensemble. The opponents are in their just as famous colours. Green shirts, white shorts and red socks.
2 mins. Unlike the two previous matches, Germany are quickly into their stride. There are a couple of loose passes from the Mexicans, and the game looks to have set off at a decent pace.
5 mins. Mexico are getting to see a bit of the ball, and it looks like there is going to be a decent contest in midfield.
6 mins. A loose header Mexican skipper Héctor Moreno falls straight to Goretzka, who charges towards the halfway line and inside the opposition half before finding Henrichs out on the right. The Mexican defence are all over the place, and Henrichs has plenty of choices. Both Stindl and Werner are in front of him, but the Leverkusen man rolls the ball back inside for Goretzka who has continues his run. The pass is perfect, and the Schalke man doesn’t need to break stride. He strokes it calmly into the bottom left-hand corner with his right foot, and Germany are in front. There’s no chance for ‘keeper Guillermo Ochoa. 1-0.
Leon Goertzka strokes the ball past Mexican ‘keeper Guillermo Ochoa to give Germany the lead in the sixth minute
8 mins. Unbelievable. The Mexican defence are caught at sixes and sevens again, and Stindl finds the fast-advancing Werner in the middle of the pitch. Proving that he is not just a lethal finisher, Werner slices open the Mexican defence with a sublime low ball, Goretzka collects, and is clean through on goal. Ochoa can’t do much to tighten the angle, and is beaten by a lovely right-footed shot that flashes across him before nestling into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. 2-0.
Two minutes later, Goretzka doubles the Mannschaft’s advantage with another lovely finish
10 mins. Mexico must surely be shellshocked, but are working well in the German half. There is plenty of good movement from the men in green and they win a corner, but the kick is cleared easily.
12 mins. More decent approach play from the Mexicans. Raúl Jiménez gets in a decent cross from the right which is cleared, but El Tri recycle the ball well for Oswaldo Alanis to get a shot at goal. It is on target, but Marc-André ter Stegen safely swallows it up.
15 mins. Given the possession Mexico are having, you would not think that they are two goals down. Jogi’s Jungs are taking it easy though.
17 mins. The men in white now string a few passes together, and Draxler and Werner keep things moving. Werner looks to thread a pass through to Stindl, but Javier Aquino does well to out it behind for a corner. Draxler’s kick is floated into the box, but Mexico clear their lines.
19 mins. Another swift break from the men in white, and it is Henrichs again with another killer pass that finds Werner in space. The RB Leipzig man charges in on goal before fires a decent right-footed effort, but Ochoa gets down well to make the block. That was such a fast break that there was nobody up with Werner, who had no real choice but to shoot. Had there been some support, that would almost certainly have been 3-0. The Mexican defence were nowhere in sight.
22 mins. Mexico are again seeing a lot of the ball, but are unable to create anything in the final third. The German defence are well drilled, pressing high.
24 mins. Miguel-Arturo Layun swings a teasing ball into the box looking for Aquino, who is well marshalled by Henrichs.
25 mins. There’s a break at the other end now, but Draxler loses control of the ball and Mexico are able to clear their lines and build another attack.
26 mins. That attack comes courtesy of brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos. Giovani sends in a looping ball into the danger zone, and it is just a little too far in front of Jonathan. ter Stegen collects.
28 mins. All of the pressure is coming from the Mexicans, with the Mannschaft prepared to bide their time and use the pitch to attack on the break. A third German goal come come at any time, but one for Mexico would certainly make things interesting.
30 mins. The ball is again in the German box. Aquino cannot gain control, and Antonio Rüdiger makes the clearance.
31 mins. This has been an excellent response from Juan Carlos Osorio’s team, who have been well on top since going two behind. Germany are keeping things tight at the back though, and ter Stegen is yet to be really tested.
32 mins. Draxler is robbed at the edge of his own penalty area by Giovani dos Santos, who pulls his shot wide of the target.
33 mins. Giovani dos Santos collects a lovely pass from Chicharito and gets outside Sebastian Rudy, and his shot is well blocked by ter Stegen. The danger is not over, and Jonathan dos Santos sends in a long range header that is collected by the German ‘keeper.
36 mins. The play is now in the Mexican half, and Henrichs fires an ugly shot wide. In a flash, Mexico get the ball away and into the German half, and Chicharito gets on the end of a lovely ball from Giovani dos Santos before dinking his shot over the target. That was an excellent opening, but ter Stegen did well do close the Bayer Leverkusen man down.
38 mins. Giovani dos Santos is bundled over by Rudy, and Mexico win a free-kick some twenty-two yards out.
39 mins. Hector Herrera takes the shot, which is over the wall. It looks like is going just over the crossbar, but ter Stegen makes sure. Hererra’s corner is headed clear by Goretzka.
40 mins. Again the men in green stream forward. Both Chicharito and Jímenez are in position to meet Aquino’s cross, but Matthias Ginter does brilliantly to get into position and put it behind for a corner.
42 mins. Germany cannot get out of their own half at the moment, and Mexico are doing everything to get back into the contest.
44 mins. Alanis is brought down by Draxler. Herrera looks to send the ball into the German box, but the danger is quickly cleared. Werner is brought down and Germany win a free-kick just inside the opposition half. Time to wind down the clock now.
45 mins. The play finishes in the German half, and the whistle blows for half-time.
This has been a very strange game. After ten minutes it looked like it was going to be a massacre as Germany swept into a two-goal lead, but since then their Mexican opponents have dominated proceedings. The men in green have had plenty of possession in the German half and a few half-chances, but in reality the German defence have kept things tight where it matters.
46 mins. Mexico get the second half underway. In the meantime they have made their first change of the evening, with Hirving Lozano replacing Aquino.
47 mins. Alanis plays a terrible ball inside towards Ochoa, whose clearance hits the fast-advancing Werner. On another day, that would have rebounded into the net.
50 mins. Corner for Mexico. Jímenez gets a sharp flick on it with his head, but it is too fast for Chicharito. It is a case of ball to head rather than ball to head, and it floats harmlessly over the crossbar.
51 mins. Germany give the ball away in the middle, Mexico break, and for a moment they are a man up. Jímenez gets a good sight of goal and his shot is on target, but it is straight at ter Stegen.
53 mins. A smart backheel from Goretzka frees Stindl, whose perfectly-timed pass finds Werner out on the right. The German number eleven sprints inside and into the Mexican box, beating Moreno for pace. The Leipzig man looks set to shoot, but takes the slightest of shoves in the back from Moreno before pulling his shot narrowly wide. It looks like Werner has paid the price for staying on his feet there, and there is a clear case for a penalty. Time to use the VAR? Nope. Play on, says Argentinian referee Néstor Pitana.
55 mins. Goretzka is fouled some twenty-five yards out from the Mexican goal, and Jímenez is booked. Draxler takes the free-kick, which fizzes low and through the wall. Ochoa is well behind it though, and collects the ball safely.
57 mins. Lozano sends a cross into the German penalty area, but there are no other green shirts.
58 mins. Germany give the ball away and Lozano again sends a cross into the danger zone, but it is too far in front of the fast-advancing Chicharito.
59 mins. Goretzka finds Draxler just outside the Mexican box, and the skipper’s pass is threaded neatly through two defenders to find Hector to his left. The left wing-back cuts the ball back inside where Werner is waiting, and the striker taps it into the empty net with his left foot. There is a possible question over whether Werner was gaining an advantage by being in an offside position when Draxler made the pass, but there’s no call for another look. One can say that it makes up for the possible penalty shout. 3-0.
Timo Werner scores what will surely be one the easiest goals in his international career, and Germany are three up
62 mins. Werner breaks fast again down the right, and towards the byline where he tussels with Néstor Araujo. He looks like he wins the ball fairly, but is penalised for a foul instead.
63 mins. A second change for the Mexicans. Giovani dos Santos is off, and Marco Fabián is on.
64 mins. Chicharito and Jímenez combine nicely at the edge of the German box, and the ball is played to Fabián who finds the side netting with his first touch.
65 mins. Werner makes a break and finds Draxler just outside the penalty area, but the German skipper goes down far too easily. The referee waves play on, Stindl recycles the ball, and Henrichs’ cross is collected by Ochoa as Werner closes in on him.
67 mins. Mexico make their final change, with veteran Rafael Marquez replacing Jonathan dos Santos. There’s a change for the Mannschaft too. There’s not going to be a hat-trick for Goretzka, and the two-goal is replaced by Emre Can.
70 mins. Mexico move swiftly up the pitch and use the width of the pitch nicely. Layun is in space and gets some good purchase on the ball with his right foot, but ter Stegen dives well to his left to make the save. It was at a perfect height for the ‘keeper, but he gets everything behind it. From the resulting corner, the ball falls towards Alanis and Araujo on the edge of the six-yard box. Ginter gets there first to clear the danger.
72 mins. Can is booked for a silly late challenge on Marquez. Moments later Rüdiger goes down after getting a shove in the chest from Chicharito, who is irate at what he thinks is a overreaction from the AS Roma fullback. Looking at the replay, he has a point. Rüdiger is a big guy, and went down far too easily there. Time to stop this nonsense, even if the video referees aren’t being asked to do anything.
74 mins. Can breaks down the left and into the Mexican box, but has neither the pace nor the support. Ochoa closes him down and the Mexican ‘keeper wins the ball.
75 mins. Draxler plays a lovely stepover and turns Layun inside out, cuts sharply inside and has a right-footed effort that Ochoa collects. Some lovely approach play and great skill from the German captain, but the shot was slightly scuffed and not quite good enough. As the play quickly switches to the other side of the pitch, Lozano finds Jímenez, whose header is too good for ter Stegen but not quite good enough to beat the crossbar.
78 mins. Germany’s second change. Stindl is off, and Julian Brandt is on.
80 mins. Brandt makes a burst down the middle and looks to collect Werner’s return pass, which is a little behind him and too strong.
81 mins. Draxler gets a breather for the last nine minutes of the ninety, and is replaced by Amin Younes. Kimmich again gets the captain’s armband.
83 mins. Fabián and Rüdiger clash in the box, and the physios are on. Time for a quick drink, and both players and up and running pretty quickly.
84 mins. Mexico win their ninth corner of the evening, and it is swung perfectly by Layun into the six yard box. Marquez meets it well with a firm header which is on target, but ter Stegen makes an excellent reaction save before Ginter heads clear. The German ‘keeper has not been tested much, but has done everything that has been asked of him. The flag has actually gone up, not that ter Stegen would have been aware of that.
87 mins. Another Mexican corner. Marquez is there again, but this time it is high over the target.
89 mins. Can is penalised for a foul on Marquez, and Mexico win a free-kick some thirty yards out. Maybe a little more. I’d say around thirty-five. The ball is tapped inside by Herrera to Fabián, who lashes it with all his might. It swerves inside and then out and away from the diving ter Stegen before crashing into the top right-hand corner of the German net. That was the only way the German ‘keeper was going to be beaten tonight. What a stunning goal that was. 3-1.
Marc-André ter Stegen flies to his left, but cannot stop Marco Fabián’s rasping thirty-five yard shot
90 mins. El Tri are sensing something impossible here. Fabián has sight of goal again, but this time slips before he can control the ball and the Mannschaft desperately make the clearance. Osorio’s warriors are fighting to the last, and have certainly contributed to what has been an excellent and highly entertaining game of football.
90+1 mins. Werner is creating havoc in the Mexican box and his shot is only half cleared, and the ball falls to Brandt who finds Can to his left. The Liverpool man sees Younes to his left inside the box, and the Ajax winger sends a sweet left-footed shot across Ochoa and into the right-hand bottom corner. I think we can say it now. Game over. 4-1.
Amin Younes threads the ball past Ochoa in injury time, putting the icing on Germany’s cake
90+2 mins. Chicharito sends a shot just wide of the post, but the referee sees a deflection and Mexico win another corner. There’s another excellent delivery from Layun, and ter Stegen dives well to his right to make the save from Jímenez’s header. Fair play to Mexico here. They have really contributed to what has been a great game to watch.
90+3 mins. The final whistle blows. Germany are in the final, their first time in their third Confederations Cup attempt.
Well, what a match. An astonishing start from the Mannschaft, followed by what felt like relentless pressure from the Mexicans as they dominated the possession and created plenty of opportunities. Marc-André ter Stegen in the German goal may not have had much to do in the first half, but more than made up for that in the second with a number of fantastic saves.
The second half was almost end to end action, and it was hard to keep up at times, let alone write a minute by minute report. Chances galore, and plenty of drama.
Mexico might feel that they deserved more and the statistics tell a story that doesn’t fit the final scoreline, but Jogi Löw’s young charges were solid where it mattered at the back and were supremely clinical up front. Phew, was für ein Spiel!
In the final in St. Petersburg, Chile await. If the match is anything like the group encounter last week, we are going to be in for a thriller.
Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, 29.06.2017
Goretzka 6., 8., Werner 59., Younes 90.+1. / Fabián 89.
Germany: ter Stegen – Kimmich, Rüdiger, Ginter – Henrichs, Rudy, Hector – Goretzka (67. Can), Draxler (c) (81. Younes) – Stindl (78. Brandt), Werner
Mexico: Ochoa – Layún, Araujo, Moreno (c), Alanis – J. dos Santos (66. Marquez), Herrera, G. dos Santos (62. Fabián) – Raúl Jiménez, Javier Hernández, Aquino (46. Lozano)
Referee: Néstor Pitana (Argentina)
Assistants: Hernán Maidana (Argentina), Juan Pablo Belatti (Argentina)
Fourth Official: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
Video Assistant Referees: Sandro Ricci (Brazil), Elenito Di Liberatore (Italy)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Artur Soares Dias (Portugal)
Yellow Cards: Can / Jímenez
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 42% / 58%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 9 / 17
Attempts off Target: 3 / 8
Corners: 4 / 11
Fouls Committed: 16 / 8
Man of the Match: Leon Goretzka (Germany)