FIFA World Cup 2018: Hirving Lozano strikes as Mexico stun defending champions Germany
Juan Carlos Osorio had made the most rigorous preparations for his Mexico team going into the World Cup. They played 68 games since 2015, the most by any of the 32 teams at the tournament.
On Sunday evening, it showed how well-prepared his side was as Mexico’s frenetic counter-attacking football saw them stun defending champions Germany 1-0 at the Luzhniki Stadium here.
Mexico began with a counter-attack in the very first minute of the game. Hirving Lozano’s shot was deflected for a corner-kick but the move got the Mexican fans going early on.
Germany responded almost immediately. Timo Werner found himself open in space towards the right side of Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa but his shot across the goal missed the target by a couple of feet.
Mexico remained persistent for the next few minutes as they kept having a go at Manuel Neuer’s goal. In the 10th minute, Hector Herrera’s shot was comfortably grabbed by the German goalkeeper. Four minutes later, a free-kick from Miguel Layun found its way into a melee of heads in the box. It flew straight to Neuer’s hands.
Lozano continued to be a livewire down the left and in the 26th minute, set up a long-range shot for Layun whose effort went over. It would continue to be the order of the day as Mexico regularly used their pace to hit on the break against a German backline that struggled to track the pace and movement of Lozano and Javier Hernandez.
In the 34th minute, Layun almost found himself through on goal but couldn’t reach the ball. The Mexican chants grew louder. A minute later, the chants turned to those on Lozano as the winger scored from another of Mexico’s breaks.
Taking advantage of their clever positioning – Osorio stationed a player, usually Hernandez or Lozano at the edge of the last line of the German defence for different periods of the game --- Hernandez passed the ball to Lozano who was open on the left and made no mistake with just Neuer to beat.
Germany almost equalised a minute later as a Toni Kroos free-kick almost rippled the insides of the goal but for an Ochoa fingertip save that diverted the ball to the bar and back to the field of play from where it was cleared to safety.
Mexico didn’t budge. With their ability to break away with pace, they continued to hassle Germany’s backline.
It was the same story in the second half as Germany were exposed for their dogmatic approach. It could, and perhaps should, have been more to Mexico but their lack of finishing meant that the scoreline remained unchanged.
Hernandez and Vela were both guilty of wasting promising counter-attacks while Layun’s efforts from two more Mexico breaks were wide of the mark.
Mexico narrowed down their backline and allowed Germany to play from the flanks. The world champions were often forced into crossing the ball into the box.
Osorio threw in 39-year-old veteran Rafael Marquez who added more steel to the backline and helped them comfortably steer Germany’s crosses away to safety.
Frustration started to boil over for Germany in the closing stages as both Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels were booked for cynical fouls.
The Mexican crowd had started whistling, calling on the referee to end the match, as the game entered stoppage time. When Ochoa finally caught the ball and clutched onto it at the end of a chance of Germany in the final minute of injury-time, it was met with the loudest roar of the night.
Mexico’s win will now further boost hopes of getting past the last-16, which has proved to be their bogey round in the last six World Cups.
“We all dream of playing in the World Cup. It’s definitely the best goal I have ever scored in my entire life,” Lozano told reporters after the game.