Spirited Mexico stun Germany in World Cup thriller
A shaky warm-up campaign calls into question the dominant form the Germans showed in qualifying
Moscow — Defending champions Germany crashed to defeat in their first game at the World Cup on Sunday as an enterprising Mexico refused to be intimidated and came away 1-0 winners in a thrill-packed Group F opener.
A shaky warm-up campaign had called into question the dominant form the Germans showed in qualifying, but experience and records were on their side, having won every opening game at major tournaments since Joachim Low took over as coach in 2006.
Juan Carlos Osorio’s side had other ideas, however, holding their own against the favourites’ fearsome but slowing midfield and finding space at the back, seeking to end 33 years without a win against Germany.
After wasting a handful of first-half chances while living dangerously in their own half, Hirving Lozano’s 35th-minute strike on the break proved just reward.
When German centre back Mats Hummels lost possession deep in the Mexican half, Javier Hernandez was released through the middle. He outpaced Jerome Boateng and with a less than perfect pass found Lozano, who cut inside Mesut Ozil, held off a charging Toni Kroos and slotted past Manuel Neuer.
At the other end, Guillermo Ochoa tipped a blistering Kroos free kick on to the bar minutes later, in what was to prove the Germans’ closest effort of a match in which they had more than 60% possession.
Osorio beefed up his defences, pulling off Lozano and sending in 39-year-old Rafael Marquez at the back. He became the third man in history to play in five World Cups.
Low threw on Marco Reus in place of Sami Khedira and, with 10 minutes to go, switched left-back Marvin Plattenhardt for a second striker, Mario Gomez, to reinforce Timo Werner.
Youngster Julian Brandt nearly saved Low’s night after taking over from Werner in the final minutes when he blasted a shot past Ochoa’s right post, and even goalkeeper Neuer came up for a corner in injury time.
But it was not to be.
A curling free kick from captain Aleksandar Kolarov secured a 1-0 victory for Serbia over Costa Rica in the opening Group E match.