The reigning world champions were given a rude awakening by the plucky Latin Americans in Moscow.
Germany Vs Mexico was a match billed as one where the holders would batter their less-fancied opposition into submission. After all, this was Germany, the holders and a team that had scored a minimum of four goals in their opening game in the last four editions of the tournament.
It was also a team that had the firepower of Timo Werner and Thomas Muller along with the trickery of Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil and the guile of Toni Kroos. which was supposed to be more than a match for the North Americans.
But, the games prior to this have seen the less fancied teams like Peru, Australia, Iran, Morocco and Iceland showing incredible industry and resolve to show the traditional heavyweights that they are not here to make up the numbers.
Germany failed to heed that warning as they oversaw a shock and deserved 0-1 loss to Mexico in their 2018 World Cup opener at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. It also ensured that the title holders earned the tag of being the first European nation to lose a game in this year’s World Cup.
Watch: Germany 0-1 Mexico highlights
El Tri were the team that were first off the blocks right from kick-off and Germany in all fairness were not prepared for such a positive start from their opponents. The front four of Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Miguel Layun and the young Hirving Lozano repeatedly broke into space behind the German defence, who were clearly someplace else as the defending bordered on shambolic and dangerous.
Marvin Plattenhardt in for the ill Jonas Hector was hardly a threat in the wide areas while Joshua Kimmich was more often than not struggling to return to his position after venturing forward. The sole midfield screen of Sami Khedira was barely a presence as he could not keep up with the enterprise of Hector Herrera and Andreas Guardado who released the attacking quartet with incisive and quick passes.
Khedira who had the luxury of the battle-hardened Bastian Schweinsteiger in the 2014 edition could have used another player alongside him to stem the flow of attacks originating from midfield. Instead he was tasked with screening the entire backline on his own, especially with Kroos needing to focus on setting the team’s tempo and ensuring distribution to the full-backs.
In fact, on more than one occasion, the Germans were outnumbered four to two and it was poor finishing from the Mexicans that saw the scoreline remain narrow. But, it was a warning and Germany should have paid attention to. Instead, they were shell-shocked when Mats Hummels committed himself too early and left Jerome Boateng isolated against Vela and Lozano, which ended with the latter giving the Mexicans the lead. However, it was no more than the North Americans deserved.
Normally a setback like this would have seen the champions get their act right and launch a full fledged assault on the opposition goal. But, Joachim Low’s team selection for this game was questionable.
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Julian Draxler’s presence out on the left barely troubled Jesus Gallardo and Plattenhardt’s reluctance to provide the overlap ensured that the backline was never stretched. What was even more bizarre was the fact that Muller was asked to stay in a wide position as opposed to his usual role an “interpreter of space”, a role that has fetched him 10 World Cup goals already. Instead, World Cup debutant Timo Werner was left isolated and the Mexican centre-backs easily dealt with him.
Mesut Ozil, the man who is accused of being in and out of games was clearly out of this one, as he laboured through the course of the outing and it was a surprise that he was still on the pitch at full-time.
Marco Reus’ introduction for Khedira ensured that the Germans carried a greater threat in the box in the latter parts of the second half. But, the lack of the sole midfield screen also saw them vulnerable to Mexican breaks which nearly cost them a second goal had it not been for Layun’s shot over the bar.
Germany face the tricky Swedes in their next match on 23rd June which means they have a week to put this defeat behind them and get their title defence back on track. It also gives time for Low to drive home to his charges that complacency can have no place in this team and he will need to make some harsh decisions to ensure that the Germans don’t replicate Italy, France and Spain’s example of crashing out in the group stages as defending champions.