Hirving Lozano scored Mexico’s winning goal as El Tri defeated reigning world champions Germany 1-0 in Estadio Luzhniki in the 2018 World Cup’s biggest shock to date and one of the biggest upsets of all time.
Here are three thoughts from the stadium.
1. Mexico supreme as Germany fail to spark
Mexico had never before defeated Germany in an official match but came into Sunday’s match talking a good game. Off the pitch, the faithful Mexican fans — around 30,000 of them — entertained and did their part. On it, the players responded with a victory and performance that will go down as one of the very best in the history of Mexican football.
To defeat the reigning world champions and many pundits’ favorites to lift the trophy again was special enough. But to go out and attack them from the start — and for the 22-year-old Lozano, the jewel of Mexican soccer, to get the winning goal — made this an afternoon that will long live in the memory.
Mexico attacked often in the first half, creating a chance that perhaps Lozano should have converted early on. The PSV Eindhoven player did make it count in the 34th minute, though, when Javier Hernandez passed to him down the left. Lozano cut inside, steadied himself and fired in what turned out to be the winner at Manuel Neuer’s near post.
Mexico came flying out of the blocks. Coach Osorio had stated ahead of the game that his team would go toe-to-toe with Germany because he believed in his team and especially the midfielders. Hector Herrera — who had to leave camp only 10 days ago due to family issues — was inspired, furthering the idea that the 28-year-old could comfortably play at a higher level than the Portugal first division.
Guillermo Ochoa had his moment when he saved a Toni Kroos free-kick in the 39th minute. Then there was Lozano, who lived up to his billing as Mexico’s brightest young prospect. Left-back Jesus Gallardo, a player who has never played at anywhere near the level of Germany’s players, stood up to the challenge as well but it would possibly be unfair to single too many of the players. The real key for Mexico was the collective, the way the players pressed and harried the Germans into mistakes all over the field and then showed the steel to hold onto the one-goal lead.
The way El Tri played out from the back, competed in the air with a much bigger German side and created chances was especially impressive. Osorio knew Mexico could do damage on the counter and so it turned out.
After the break, Germany took control. Toni Kris went close in the 76th minute and the world champions continued to pepper the Mexico goal but were strangely off target with 26 shots, although only nine found the target.
Still, Mexico managed to create. They should have doubled the advantage in the 54th minute when Hernandez and Vela went through on goal, only for Hernandez putting too much weight on the pass for his former Chivas teammate. El Tri also had a penalty shout in the 70th when Hernandez went down under pressure from Mats Hummels.
Osorio said his Mexico team needed “one big game” after losing 2-0 to Denmark last Saturday amid waves of criticism of the team back home. This could very well have been it.
2. Did Joachim Low get it wrong for Germany?
It may sound strange to suggest but was Germany too offensive early on against Mexico and too willing to play a high line?
The Germany team competed for possession against a Mexico side that routinely has more of it but the reigning world champions’ problems didn’t come when in possession. Germany’s issues were evident when they lost the ball.
Low’s side had no answer to Mexico’s counter-attacks in transition and looked fragile, a trait not usually associated with Die Mannschaft. With full respect to the Mexican national team, a Brazil or Spain side given so much room could do serious damage with so much space behind the defense, even if Jonas Hector’s absence due to a cold was a blow for the Germans at the back.
The blueprint for Germany would have seemed to have been the way they played in the Confederations Cup semifinal a year ago, in which Germany had only 42 percent of possession but won 4-1. The two early goals from Germany did shape that game but Germany sat deep and almost invited Mexico on, picking El Tri off with some ease on the counter.
In Moscow, Germany dominated with 67 percent of the ball. Timo Werner spawned a couple of chances early on, which didn’t help, and the German side will need him to improve moving forward in the tournament. Despite the loss, you’d still expect them to advance with games against Sweden and South Korea coming up.
But with speculation that all was not well in the Germany camp ahead of the game, Low had talked in the build-up to Germany’s opener about making a statement against Mexico. The German side certainly did that but it wasn’t the one they would’ve wanted.
3. Marquez comes on for fifth World Cup
Sunday saw a historic win for Mexico and a personal milestone for Rafa Marquez, who came on in the 74th minute to replace Andres Guardado. In doing so, Marquez became only the fourth player in history to appear at five World Cups. The 39-year-old also extended his record of captaining a team from four to five men’s World Cups, a streak that may never be broken.
Next for Mexico is to get out the group. After that, talk of a quarterfinal is valid given what we saw on Sunday.