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FIFA World Cup 2018: Germany pay price for failing to stem Mexican waves as Joachim Low gets his tactics all wrong

Several Mexican players, including Javier Hernandez, were in tears after the final whistle. The exuberant Mexican fans caused what is believed to be a minor earthquake.

Defending champions Germany crashed to the first defeat in their opening game of a World Cup since 1982 as Hirving Lozano's clinical finish earned Mexico a shock 1-0 victory on Sunday. AFP

Germany crashed to their first loss in a World Cup opener since 1982 as Mexico pulled off a shock 1-0 win. AFP

One-nil read the scoreboard after 90 minutes. A stunner from Hirving Lozano set off such a commotion that seismic detectors in Mexico City registered a false earthquake, which the geological institute said may have been generated by 'massive jumps' across the city. Oh, and that led to chaos in the German camp.

To an extent where Germany had six attackers and three defenders on the pitch in the dying stages of the match, while fit-again Manuel Neuer looked set to channelise his inner Peter Schmeichel in the opposition half. A German side was running out of options. Panicked. A rare sight.

Contrary to the urgency shown by the four-time winners in the second half, the defending champions were stuttered in the first 45 minutes. Joachim Loew fielded four forwards upfront, leaving ample space for Mexican midfielders in the center of the park. Sami Khedira, who is tipped to fill the void left by Bastian Schweinsteiger, couldn’t adjust to the pace of Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado in a two-man midfield. The Mexican duo combined brilliantly to leave Toni Kroos, the midfield industry, dumbfounded.

The Germans were so disoriented that with 14 minutes gone, Hector Moreno was offered ample space to head the opener from a free-kick. Yes, we are talking about the German defence, which was under constant pressure from the hungry Mexican players.

Kroos and Khedira chased the ball like school kids as Mexican players ran past them with a succession of quick, counter-attacking blows. The duo failed to provide protection to the central defenders — Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, who didn’t seem pleased with the shape of the team.

Boateng's build-up to the World Cup was hampered by a groin injury, and the Bayern Munich centre-back found himself exposed often as Mexico's speed was a constant threat on the counter-attack.

Mexico found acres of space to counter-attack through the midfield and as a result, Lozano steamrolled past the German defence to set the Luzhinki Stadium on fire.

With Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Thomas Muller and Timo Werner all upfront, the attackers had very little time to support the midfield. Ozil and Draxler didn’t contribute defensively after losing possession in the opposition half.

Low’s 4-2-3-1 looked out of place and creaky, with fox-in-the-box Muller spaced out on the right. The Mexican wingers often switched the flanks, depending on the space up front.

To be precise, right from the first minute of the game, El Tri looked threatening with the ball and off it. They had a different setup that demanded high-pressing in their own half and break as quickly as possible. Ahead of the match, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said that his side was ready to upset four-time winners Germany, provided they realise that the clash is just another football match.

It was a fearless performance from the El Tri which executed the game plan Osorio set out for them.

After a rather bleak first half, Germany did try to equalise. They tried. There were flashes of brilliance from Draxler and Werner after the restart but Guillermo Ochoa denied the Nationalmannschaft from drawing level.

As far as creativity is concerned, Ozil’s absent-mindedness as No 10, something he’s been guilty of doing at Arsenal, made things worse for Loew. The 57-year-old manager replaced Khedira with Marco Reus to bring the best out of Ozil and inject more pace through the flanks.

In reply to that, Osario introduced former Barcelona man Rafael Marquez, who played in his fifth World Cup aged 39, to add robustness at the back. Jose Mourinho would be smiling with pride after watching the Mexicans sit deep as they formed a ‘Mexican wall’ to stop the Germans from attacking, literally.

However, the game was won in the midfield.

Although Lozano’s strike was enough to tame the Germans, Herrera deserves to be given the credit for what Mexico were able to accomplish. No Mexican player finished with more accurate passes or tackles than the FC Porto man. In fact, it was his intervention that led to Lozano's goal in the first half. The 28-year-old had what Kroos’ midfield partner at Real Madrid Luka Modric has — energetic presence.

Carlos Vela dropped deep on the break, which allowed Herrera to spread and spray passes forward, leaving the German midfield disoriented.

Where was the German midfield? A legit question.

Defensive blunders

Fault lines in Germany's defence have been visible in recent games and Sunday's 1-0 World Cup defeat to Mexico should not really be seen as a surprise.

Low's eleven were exposed by Mexico's counter-attacking, and had the Mexicans been more accurate in their final third, they would not have had to worry about Germany's attack after the 88th minute.

Boateng, all on his own, could not snuff out the danger during the crucial break and Hummels was out of position.

After the result, center-back Hummels said Germany had ignored the warnings from their shaky 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in their final warm-up game.

This wasn’t a wake-up call, but the outcome of letting their opponents come all guns blazing. Which means that the problems first surfaced a couple of weeks before the tournament in Russia.

"I don't quite understand we played the way we did today, because we had already had a shot across our bow (against Saudi Arabia). Our cover wasn't good, too often it was just Jerome (Boateng) and I at the back."

Marvin Plattenhardt replaced the ill Jonas Hector and was caught napping in the wide areas, while right-back Joshua Kimmich was failed to cover the ground after venturing forward.

"It's pretty simple: we played like we did against Saudi Arabia, but this time it was against a better opponent," fumed the Bayern Munich defender.

Kroos, who like Hummels was part of the team that won the 2014 World Cup, said Germany paid the price for failing to stem the waves of Mexican first-half attacks. "We did not find any solutions to their game in the first half," the Real Madrid player told German broadcaster ZDF.

"They were clever and left room where they could afford to. In the second half, we were better, Mexico got tired, but we did not score, although there were enough chances for at least one," he added.

The German attackers didn’t make most of their opportunities and often failed to find angles to cut in. Moreover, Ochoa made nine saves but most of the shots were straight at him.

Maybe it’s time for Loew to take a leaf out of the successful 2014 campaign, where he adhered to a more conservative plan. Fielding a two-man midfield was nothing but suicidal when your team relies on a passing game.

Clearly, Loew got his tactics wrong and Mexico deserved all the three points along with the plaudits. Draw for Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Brazil and a narrow loss for defending champions Germany. Is this a special edition in the making?

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Updated Date: Jun 18, 2018 20:29 PM

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