Germany’s World Cup title defence kicked off on the worst possible note as they were beaten 1-0 by Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.
Die Mannschaft couldn’t have asked for a worse way to start the defence of their World Cup title, having produced a toothless performance against a resolute Mexico side. Germany started the match on the front foot, but soon found El Tri not just match them blow for blow but also create the better of chances.
The likes of Hirving Lozano, Javier Hernandez and Miguel Layun all threatened in the first half-hour, growing in ascendancy with each passing move. Juan Carlos Osorio’s men finally got their goal in the 35th minute with Lozano at the end of a free flowing counter-attacking move.
For Germany, their best chance came moments later when Toni Kroos took a goalbound free-kick, only to see it saved by Guillermo Ochoa. They would subsequently control much of the possession without doing a lot with it, as Mexico held on for their first ever competitive win over Germany. The Hard Tackle now assesses who the three most impressive players were in the match.
Heralded as a possible breakout star at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, expectations were understandably very high from the Mexican pocket rocket that is Hirving Lozano, and the PSV Eindhoven man didn’t disappoint one bit on Sunday afternoon.
As Mexico adopted a counter-attacking approach, Lozano became the biggest focal point for his side, running himself into the ground and catching the German defenders off guard several times with his blistering pace. His link-up and understanding with Javier Hernandez, in particular, was a sight to behold, and surely, it came to good use soon enough.
Lozano showed some good awareness to be an outlet inside the box after Hernandez and Andres Guardado exchanged passes in a swift counter-attacking move, and his finish was even more impressive as he cut past Mesut Ozil before beating Manuel Neuer at his near post – a massive feat in itself. A future superstar has arrived on the big stage.
He may not have a goal to show for the incredible effort he put in throughout the game, but Javier Hernandez was a true workhorse for Mexico on Sunday. In particular, his intelligence came to the fore as he linked up smartly with the midfielders and wingers behind him.
The former Manchester United striker also used his deceptive change of pace to good effect against a high defensive line by Germany, particularly when he found himself free in the Germany box before he inexplicably took too much time to finish off the chance.
That moment though, would turn out to be the only blip in an otherwise strong performance, which was capped off by the assist for Lozano’s goal, having done most of the hard work in the build-up to the goal. With a fantastic support act alongside him, Chicharito’s all-round game will go a long way in the tournament.
The superstar of Mexico’s 2014 World Cup campaign chose the big stage to show his mettle once again. The veteran goalkeeper did not have many outstanding saves to bail his team out on the day, but he was always assured whenever he was called into action, while getting the ball upfield with quick and precise distribution, which aided in El Tri’s counter-attacking pursuits.
The most notable moment of the day for him was undoubtedly the save from Toni Kroos’s free-kick as he just got his fingertips to a goalbound effort – a major moment in the match. In the second half, Ochoa had to remain alert to the threat that Germany posed as they looked to load men inside the Mexico box.
And, he showed tremendous awareness to quickly get off his lines and kill off moves, meaning that while the likes of Carlos Vela and Miguel Layun made a huge impact, his contribution was equally enormous. Ochoa continues to revel in the biggest of moments, something that will keep Mexico in good stead as they garner hopes of possibly topping Group F.