Poor Germany punished in tournament opener by energetic Mexico

After all of the buildup, anticipation, discussion, predictions and gossip, it is time for Germany to start their World Cup campaign. The tournament has thrown up plenty of excitement so far, from host Russia’s outstanding opening day 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia through to European Champions Portugal and 2010 World Cup winners Spain sharing six goals in a thrilling encounter in Sochi.

It was in Sochi where the Mannschaft last played opening Group F opponents Mexico, twelve days short of a year ago. In the FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final, a brace from Leon Goretzka gave Germany the perfect platform inside the first ten minutes, before holding off a spirited Mexican side.

El Tri could not convert their pressure into goals however, and Timo Werner extended the German lead just short of the hour mark. Marco Fabian scored a stunner to pull one back for the Mexicans a minute from time, but Amin Younes then completed the scoring – completing a comprehensive if slightly flattering 4-1 win.

Germany have only lost once to Mexico in the eleven internationals played between the two countries, and are unbeaten in all competitive encounters.

Since their first tournament meeting in the 1978 World Cup where Helmut Schön’s side eased to a 6-0 triumph, there have been four 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.

Then, that 4-1 win in Sochi.

Today the two teams meet in Moscow’s Luzniki Stadium, site of the opening game and also where the World Cup final will be held next month.

After much debate about whether he will start or not, Mesut Özil is in the starting eleven. The Arsenal man is set to slot into his usual position in the middle of the midfield, with Julian Draxler and Thomas Müller on the flanks behind striker Timo Werner. It means that Marc Reus will have to wait to make his first appearance in the World Cup.

A more unexpected change is the omission of left-back Jonas Hector, who is out with the flu. He is replaced by Hertha Berlin’s Marvin Plattenhardt, who lines up alongside the expected FC Bayern trio of Jérôme Boateng, Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich. Ahead of the back four are the established defensive midfield duo of Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos.

It is a warm and humid late afternoon in the Russia capital, and the excitement is slowly building. The stadium is filling up, and the two teams are out on the pitch warming up.

The two teams line up for the national anthems, and while the German fans are in good voice, there are plenty of Mexicans in the ground. Manuel Neuer and Mexican captain Andres Guardado meet in the middle, and we are almost good to go.

1 min. Mexico get the show on the road. The Mannschaft are in their usual Schwarz und Weiß ensemble, and El Tri in their traditional green shirts, white shorts and red socks.

2 mins. Hirving Lozano is almost in for Mexico as he collects a lovely pass from Chicharito, but Boateng flies in to execute the perfect block. The men in green press from the resulting corner and there is a bit of a scramble in the German box, but Neuer collects.

3 mins. At the other end, right-back Kimmich spots a run from Werner and slips in a lovely ball, and the striker sends his shot narrowly wide and across the face of the goal from a tight angle.

5 mins. After the rather frenetic start, Jogi Löw’s side are starting pass the ball around a little better.

7 mins. Draxler slips a pass for Müller down the left, and Germany win a corner. It is taken short, and after a few crisp passes Hummels gets a shot on target. It is easy for Mexican ‘keeper Francisco Ochoa.

8 mins. Mexico break down the right, work the ball back inside, and Carlos Vela is brought down by Hummels some twenty-five yards out. Miguel Layún takes the free-kick, which flies high over the target.

10 mins. Héctor Herrera strikes a solid shot from distance, but Neuer makes the catch look easy.

12 mins. Germany break down the right, but Kimmich’s low cross is collected by Ochoa.

14 mins. Kroos is penalised for a handball on the ground, and the Mexican free-kick is curled beautifully into the box by Layún. Héctor Moreno gets on the end of it, but it is straight at Neuer who has to make another sharp catch.

15 mins. The play swings to the other side of the pitch, and Kimmich’s floated cross is headed behind by Carlos Salcedo with Khedira lurking at the far post. I am not sure if the Mexican defender knew much about that. The corner is taken short, and ends with a long-distance effort from Draxler. It is firmly struck, but easy for Ochoa.

17 mins. The Mexicans are moving with plenty of pace and invention. Chicharito is causing trouble in the German box, and is eventually closed down by a number of white shirts as he looks to engineer a shooting opportunity.

20 mins. A chance. Or a chance gone begging. Werner collects the ball brilliantly in the Mexican box, twists, and fires a low shot straight at Ochoa. Draxler was free to his left, unmarked and in plenty of space.

22 mins. Draxler creates space just outside the Mexican penalty area for Toni Kroos, whose well-hit shot is safely collected by Ochoa who dives to his left and collects safely. Both ‘keepers are being tested here.

23 mins. Kimmich fouls Guardado, free-kick to Mexico. The ball is swung into the box, but the Mexicans are penalised for a foul on Khedira.

26 mins. The Mannschaft are awarded a free-kick out on the right, which is swung in purposefully by Kroos. Draxler rises but cannot beat the defender, and then looks at an audacious overhead effort. Mexico are able to clear, and break quickly. Layún swings his right boot, but his shot is high over the target.

28 mins. Another Mexican attack, this time down the left. Kimmich is nowhere to be seen, and there is far too much space. Vela looks to get his cross in, but it is cut out by Hummels. Germany clear their lines.

29 mins. Mexico are playing brilliantly, and it feels like the Confed Cup game from last season. The difference back then was that Germany were already two goals ahead. Layún has another shot, which Neuer collects.

31 mins. The Germans are getting more of the ball, but every move is being closed down quickly. Mexico are playing with plenty of energy, and one has to wonder how long they can keep going.

34 mins. Vela sends in a pass that cuts through the German defence, but it is a little too strong for the chasing Layún.

35 mins. After all the pressure, Mexico make it tell. Khedira is dispossessed in his own half as another German attack breaks down, and the men in green break quickly with a number of sharp passes. Hummels is turned inside out, Özil ends up at right-back with Kimmich way out of position, and the playmaker is left flatfooted by Lozano. The shot comes in, beating Neuer at his near post. There is no chance for the German ‘keeper. 0-1.

37 mins. Germany looks to get back into the contest. Kimmich is fouled at the edge of the box by Lozano. That was clumsy. This is a great opportunity.

38 mins. Kroos takes the free-kick. It is excellently struck, and clatters against the crossbar. Ochoa actually got a hand on that.

40 mins. Moreno is booked for time wasting.

43 mins. Mexico break quickly again through Vela, but cannot find the killer pass for the sprightly Lozano.

45 mins. Another German attack comes to nothing, Mexico break once again, and Kimmich is again out of position. Vela sends a snapshot that flies wide of the left post.

45+1 mins. The whistle blows for half-time. There will be plenty of strong words in the German dressing room.

The team have been disjointed, uncoordinated, and caught for pace time and time again. The Mexican counterattack has been fantastic, and one can say that they are unlucky not to be further in front. The German midfield has been completely absent, and midfield metronome Toni Kroos has been completely neutralised. Mexico have had huge spaces to work with, and we need a massive tactical overhaul before we see more of the same in the second half. Reus for Özil, Goretzka for Khedira, and shut things down in the middle of the park. Or else, this may get even worse.

46 mins. There are no personnel changes for either side, and Germany restart. Mexico win the ball quickly.

48 mins. Plattenhardt gets a shot on target from just outside the box, but it is far too easy for Ochoa.

50 mins. Mexico are playing smart now. Passing it about in their own half, slowing the pace down and keeping control. Just bitty fouls in response from the Germans. There is a genuine sense of frustration here.

53 mins. Kimmich balloons a shot high over the Mexican goal, and into the crowd.

54 mins. Another misplaced pass, and Mexico make their way back into the German half again. The win the ball back, Werner goes down at the edge of the box, the referee waves play on.

55 mins. A much better move from the Mannschaft. Özil slips a pass through for Draxler, who wins a corner. Taken short, no result again.

57 mins. Another Mexican break, the German defence are completely AWOL again with Plattenhardt out of position, and it looks like it should be two for El Tri. The pass from Chicharito is overhit though. That was lucky. A bit more accuracy with the pass, and Vela would have had a one on one with Neuer.

58 mins. The first change for Mexico. Edson Álvarez is on for the excellent Vela.

60 mins. The first roll of the dice for the Nationaltrainer. Or should one say the first roll of the Reus. Marco Reus is on, Khedira is off. Özil is assuming a slightly deeper position.

63 mins. Mexico are starting to sit back a little more, and are remaining disciplined. There is a little confusion between Kroos and Reus as another German attack peters out.

64 mins. Neuer is quickly off his line to foil another Mexican break.

65 mins. Boateng sends a ball into the box, which is not the best. Kimmich somehow gets himself into position for the overhead kick. A decent effort, given the circumstances. Ochoa is able to watch it float over his goal and onto the roof of the net.

66 mins. Werner chases the ball towards the byline, looks for a corner, and the referee rightly awards a goal kick as the ball bounces off the RB Leipzig striker. A second change for Juan Carlos Osorio’s side. Goalscorer Lozano is off, and Raúl Jiménez is on.

67 mins. Draxler shoots. Deflection, corner.

68 mins. A half chance. The ball falls to Werner after skimming off the top of a Mexican head, negative the shouts for offside. It is not the easiest chance, but one you might expect Werner to take. Instead, he swipes it over the target.

69 mins. Another corner for Germany. Reus steps up to deliver a more orthodox effort, which is aimed towards Hummels. Mexico clear.

70 mins. Mexico break again, and there are shouts for a penalty as Chicharito falls under pressure from Hummels. The referee waves play on. Worth a second look, but a good decision.

71 mins. Mexico are sitting deep now, and there is plenty of pressure from Germany. Reus has a shot that hits Jesús Gallardo clean in the face, and has a chance for a second effort that flies over the target. The Mexican physio is on to deal with Gallardo. That was a decent smack.

73 mins. A final change for Mexico. Veteran Rafael Márquez is on for Guardado, and matches Lothar Matthäus’ record of playing in five world cups.

76 mins. Kimmich makes room down the right, and sends the ball in towards Kroos who is lurking at the edge of the box. The German number eight has a clean swing of his right foot, and the shot floats right of the Mexican goal.

77 mins. Tremendous pressure from the Germans now. Shots on goal, deflections, blocks and corners. There’s nothing happening at the sharp end though. Mexico break, and Layún lashes a shot high over the target from 25 yards out.

79 mins. Plattenhardt sends a teasing ball into the box, Mexico clear, and Özil hits another shot that is blocked. It is Plattenhardt’s final piece of the action, as he makes way for Mario Gómez.

81 mins. Germany are throwing men forward now, and there is another opportunity for a Mexican counterattack. Three on two, but another dreadful final pass, this time from sub Jiménez. This should really be all over. Moments later Layún sends another effort wide.

83 mins. Müller takes a tug at Herrera, and is booked.

84 mins. Another close but no cigar moment. Germany break, but Kroos cannot really test Ochoa. Hummels is booked for a foul on Álvarez.

86 mins. The final change. The disappointing Werner is off, making way for Julian Brandt.

87 mins. Müller finally gets a decent cross in, but Gómez makes a complete hash of it. That was a chance, and it looks as though it is just going to be one of those days. Germany have been sorely lacking in the final third, apart from the one Kroos effort in the first half they have failed to test Ochoa.

89 mins. Brandt shows some great skill to create some space in the Mexican box, and Gómez tries to flick it past Ochoa. Mexico cannot clear effectively, and the men in white recycle the ball again. It breaks to Brandt, who lashes a stinging volley that grazes the outside of the left upright. Six inches the other way, that would have been a candidate for goal of the tournament.

90 mins. Boateng has a shot from distance, which fizzes low towards the target. Easy for Ochoa though. There will be three minutes of additional time. Herrera is booked for time wasting.

90+2 mins. Müller looks to slide a pass towards Draxler, but it is too strong. Ochoa collects, and smothers the ball. We are into the final throes of this contest.

90+3 mins. Gómez goes down easily in the box, the referee waves play on, and Germany win a corner. If here is going to be any last-minute salvation, it has to come now. It is all hands to the pump, and Neuer also makes his way up the pitch. The corner is weak, and easily cleared. Another cross comes in, but it is badly overhit and collected by Ochoa.

90+4 mins. The game slips into a fourth minute of additional time, but that is it. The whistle is blown. The German players are crestfallen, their Mexican opponents delirious. Plenty of records have been broken today. It is Mexico’s first victory over Germany since 1985, and their first ever in a competitive international.

Statistically, it is a familiar story. More goal attempts. More shots on target. More possession. Almost double the number of passes. A corner count of eight to one. But not the statistic that matters.

It is Germany’s first opening game defeat – or Auftaktniederlage – since 1982. While the result is a shock, there are plenty of precedents for a turnaround. West Germany lost a group stage game to East Germany in 1974, and went on to win the tournament. In 1982, the opening defeat against Algeria ended with another run to the final, an achievement matched four years later after the team fell to a two-goal defeat against Denmark. As recently as 2010, an unlucky German team were beaten by Serbia in the group stage before marching onto the last four and an eventual third place finish.

What is certain is that the pressure is well and truly on. Any repeat of this performance against Sweden next Saturday, and this team can look forward to taking an early flight home. We can be disappointed, but there should be no room for pessimism. The coach and the team have plenty of work to do, and there is no reason to believe that things cannot be turned around. It is also worth remembering that Spain lost their opening match in 2010 to Switzerland, before marching all the way to claim the trophy.

We have six days. They are going to feel longer than ever.

Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, 23.06.2018

0-1 (0-1)
– / Lozano 35.

Germany: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Plattenhardt (79. Gómez) – Khedira (60. Reus), Kroos – Müller, Özil, Draxler – Werner (86. Brandt)

Mexico: Ochoa – Salcedo, Ayala, Moreno, Gallardo – Herrera, Guardado (c) (74. Márquez) – Layún, Vela (58. Álvarez), Lozano (Jiménez) – Chicharito

Referee: Alireza Faghani (Iran)
Assistants: Reza Sokhandan, Mohammadreza Mansouri (Iran)
Fourth Official: Mohammed Abdulla (United Arab Emirates)
Reserve Assistant Referee: Mohamed Al-Hammadi (United Arab Emirates)
Video Assistant Referee: Massimiliano Irrati (Italy)
Assistant Video Referees: Carlos Astroza (Chile), Wilton Sampaio (Brazil), Mark Geiger (United States)

Yellow Cards: Müller 83., Hummels 84. / Moreno 40., Herrera 90.
Red Cards: – / –

Ball Possession: 60% / 40%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 16 / 6
Attempts off Target: 9 / 6
Corners: 8 / 1
Fouls Committed: 10 / 15

Attendance: 78,011

Man of the Match: Hirving Lozano (Mexico)

Poor Germany punished in tournament opener by energetic Mexico
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