Germany were stunned in their World Cup opener as Hirving Lozano’s solitary strike condemned them to a 1-0 defeat on Sunday.
The highly-rated winger broke the deadlock in the 35th minute and the defending champions failed to respond.
The team’s problems leading up the tournament were magnified by a below par performance which leaves them in real danger of an early elimination.
Here, we examine some of the fallout from the Group F clash.
Germany came into this tournament as one of the strong favourites but after a first outing, their stock has seriously dropped. The holders are renowned for their supreme structure, efficiency and control. However, all of that went out of the window as soon as Mexico ran at them right from the start.
A double pivot of Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira should have dominated the ball but were left looking leggy against Mexico’s runners from midfield and received no support from Mesut Ozil operating ahead of them. Mats Hummels was well off the pace as well, struggling to deal with a pacey forward line. Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano ran riot with the latter particularly benefitting from Joshua Kimmich’s advanced role.
The Bayern Munich full-back normally operates further up the pitch, to get involved in the build-up play and whip in dangerous deliveries from the right flank. Juan Carlos Osorio clearly identified that as an opening and Lozano was repeatedly played in down that left side with acres of space to exploit.
Kimmich was caught up the field in the build up to the goal as well, leaving Ozil of all people to chase down the rapid PSV Eindhoven winger. It’s no surprise he cut inside the Arsenal playmaker with ease before drilling his effort in at the near post.
MEXICO NEED FINE-TUNING
El Tri fully deserved the victory over the defending champions. They were the better team, created the better chances and played with more spirit.
They defended for their lives in the final 20 minutes or so, perhaps having run out of steam. They still sat deep and nullified Germany’s creative passers through the middle, who were finally afforded the opportunity to play in a more familiar area, camped in the opposition’s half rather than running back towards their own goal (not very well).
Mexico’s stubborn resistance in the closing stages meant Joachim Low’s side were instead forced to resort to an endless series of crosses into the box despite lacking in genuine width. Jerome Boateng crossing the ball in for Kimmich to attempt an audacious bicycle-kick spoke volumes of their desperation.
However, the Mexicans should never have been under that much pressure to begin with. They had several glorious opportunities to double and triple their advantage. When the dust settles and celebrations die down, they will have to take a good hard look at themselves.
Osorio’s men impressively played out from the back and then fired direct balls into the front three or had one of their midfielders break through the lines and run at the defence. The final ball was consistently lacking though and they spurned chance after chance, often waiting too long to release a team-mate into space. A little fine-tuning and Mexico could become a real counter-attacking force to reckon with.
LOW’S SELECTION IN QUESTION
With the Germans throwing numbers forward in the second half, a real impact player off the bench could’ve done them a world of good. Someone with searing pace, a rifle of a shot and the ability to hug the touchline to provide genuine width to stretch place was the order of the day.
However, Low controversially chose to leave Leroy Sane out of his final squad and in the very first game of the competition, that decision has come into question again.
Having led Die Mannschaft for over 12 years now, he’s developed a relationship with several players and values a sense of loyalty in that dynamic. That’s why it could be argued that even Khedira’s starting berth had more to do with stability and continuity than recent form. Ilkay Gundogan for example would’ve offered far more in terms of pace, creativity and distribution from the middle of the park.
Finally, Manuel Neuer swooping in and resuming as number one after being injured throughout the season raised eyebrows in the weeks leading up the tournament.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen enjoyed a fine season at Barcelona but had to step aside. The Bayern goalkeeper didn’t do too much wrong on the day but was beaten at his near post.
Granted, Lozano’s effort was well struck and relatively close in proximity but a world class keeper on top of his game probably gets something on it.
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