FIFA World Cup and Confederations Cup holders Germany start their campaign against South American nation Mexico on Sunday. Joachim Low boasts of a side that can emulate Brazil’s 1958-1962 success of consecutive World Cups wins, but it will still need a herculean effort and the German side is fully aware of that.
On the opposite side, Mexico have a mixed generation of players, spearheaded by long-term captain Rafael Marquez and exciting youngster Hirving Lozano, and fans will hope the right mix can take them far in Russia. Helmed by Juan Carlos Osorio, El Tri will be hopeful of going to the next round alongside Germany, with Sweden and South Korea the other sides in the group.
About the teams
Manuel Neuer is fit and saving and that saves Germany from a lot of headaches. The Bayern Munich custodian is well backed by Barcelona’s Marc-Andre Ter-Stegen, but Low has always been a fan of Neuer and he looks set to start.
Watch: Germany in training
Bayern’s centre-back pairing of Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels is set to be replicated at the heart of the defence, with Joshua Kimmich making it a club-three in the right-back spot. FC Koln left-back Jonas Hector completes the usual back four for the Germans.
Sami Khedira is expected to start in the sitting midfield two alongside metronome Toni Kroos, who’s won et al already, but won’t mind adding another trophy to his cabinet. In the attacking areas, Raumdeuter Thomas Muller and Marco Rues are expected to play key roles. Mesut Ozil will slot in behind striker Timo Werner, with aging Mario Gomez knocking at the door.
If Ozil sits out for the talented Julian Draxler, Muller can be expected to operate as the second striker, with Draxler firing down the right flank.
Watch: Joachim Low pre-match press conference
Mexico, on the other hand, have issues with their attacking options. Under the bar, Guillermo Ochoa is certain to start. At the back, Hector Moreno and Hugo Ayala can be expected to start as centre-backs, with Carlos Salcedo playing backup. Jesus Gallardo will play at left-back, with Edson Alvarez a possibility on the right.
Long-time servant Hector Herrera is certain to start in defensive midfield, with Andres Guardado coming off a strong season at Real Betis. Carlos Vela and Lozano can be expected to add speed on the wings, both coming off impressive seasons at Los Angeles FC and PSV Eindhoven respectively, with Giovani dos Santos operating centrally.
Up top, former go-to man Javier Hernandez looks to have dropped down the pecking order, but will likely play late roles. Oribe Peralta and Benfica forward Raul Jimenez will look to get the starting position.
The match will be played at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, the national stadium of Russia, deservingly for the champions. Seating 81,000 people, the stadium hosted the first game of the World Cup that succeeded the opening ceremony.
Neuer, Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Hector, Khedira, Kroos, Mueller, Ozil, Rues, Werner
Ochoa, Alvarez, Ayala, Moreno, Gallardo, Herrera, Guadrado, Vela, Dos Santos, Lozano, Peralta.
What to Expect?
This could be routine for the Germans and the Mexicans will have to defend resolutely to fend off the incessant attacks that are expected to be the order of the match. Mexico, who blow hot and cold, will expect the attacking midfield trio of Vela, Dos Santos and Lozano to make most of the opportunities.
Khel Now Predicts
Germany 3-1 Mexico