Wonderful, wondrous, wow. Mexico 1, Germany 0.
The world champions were outdone in Moscow, Mexico irresistible at times and irrepressible throughout.
Group F’s opener was fabulous, frenetic and provided the victors a famous win. Hirving Lozano got the goal, the national team’s newest darling delivering on his promise, his first-half strike condemning Germany to a deserved defeat.
“The phrase for today was to play for the love of winning, not for the fear of losing and that was exactly what they did,” said Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio following a truly absorbing contesting.
“The players did what they should have: we played with bravery when it was needed and we also defended with all our hearts. We need to give all credit where it is due, and that is with the players. Mexico shows it has a bright future,”
They did that and then some. Urged on by the majority of a buzzing Luzhniki Stadium, Mexico swarmed over their opponents. They had five shots inside the first 15 minutes. Germany, with the experienced and decorated Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira struggling in the centre of this frantic skirmish, were overrun and overstretched. Between them, Hector Herrera was immense.
On 35 minutes, lift-off. Mexico sliced through their rivals, Mats Hummels erred and Javier Hernandez helped set free Lozano. The principal dangerman, Mexico’s top scorer through qualifying and PSV Eindhoven's in last season's Erdevisie, too, cut inside and crashed his shot past Manuel Neuer in the German goal.
Mexico had the advantage they merited; Germany looked shell-shocked. Soon, though, they shook the crossbar, when Kroos’ excellent free-kick was tipped well onto the upright by Guillermo Ochoa. Lozano had given away the foul.
Mexico were cheered off at half-time. Their fans, by then already ringing out the "Oles" with every period of possession, booed Germany back on.
“I want to take this opportunity to dedicate this great result to all the Mexican fans who made the journey out here, to the people behind the scenes who help us in our work and in general to everybody who has supported us,” Osorio said. “We will try to give them joy. And those who do not support us yet, we will work to convince them to join us.”
Joachim Low’s side need now to convince themselves. As expected, they improved after the interval, for it was all they could do. They controlled possession and pressed forward.
Yet Mexico always looked dangerous on the break. On 56 minutes, they should have doubled their lead, but Hernandez overcooked his pass to Carlos Vela. Later, Miguel Layun struck twice on the counter, but twice he was off target.
One of the most talented teams in the tournament, Germany laid siege to Mexico’s goal. Joshua Kimmich almost equalised with an acrobatic effort that nestled on Ochoa’s net; Julian Draxler’s shot was deflected wide; from the ensuing corner, Timo Werner scooped high his shot. Substitute Marco Reus fired beyond Ochoa and the Mexico goal, as did Kross, this time by a matter of inches.
In among the mayhem, Rafael Marquez was introduced, the veteran Mexican becoming only the third play to appear in five World Cups. With three minutes remaining, Mario Gomez, introduced late on as Germany became more direct, more desperate, headed over. Fellow substitute Julian Brandt had time to flash a shot wide. It proved Germany’s final opportunity.
Mexico withstood the onslaught and got the win, their World Cup up and running in spectacular fashion. It was wondrous, wonderful, wow. The world champions, brilliantly put to the sword, have work to do.
"In the first half we played very badly,” said Low, before quickly realising Mexico's role in that. “We were not able to impose our usual way of playing. But we will not just break apart now and become headless and do something completely different. There is no need to break out in panic just because we have lost a match."