Russian World Cup group stage first march did not favor defending champion, Germany, by crashed to first defeat in its opening game of the tournament since 1982 as Hirving Lozano’s clinical finish earned Mexico a shock 1-0 victory on Sunday.
The highly-rated PSV Eindhoven forward struck the winner on 35 minutes after a blistering counter-attack at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as Mexico beat Germany for just the second time in history.
Said Mexico Coach Juan Carlos Osorio: “We always thought of having two quick players on the wing. We chose Hirving [Lozano] who is our fastest player. In the first half we managed to play defensively with a great deal of intelligence and hit them on the counter. In the first half of the match we were the superior team. In the second we knew full well that Germany have an outstanding team.
“We prepared for the use of Mario Gomez up front. Yesterday we practiced defending with four midfielders and three players up front and that was how we almost got the second goal today. Mexico showed that we have a bright future.”
In contrast, Germany’s preparations for the tournament were plagued by poor results and controversy, and their problems were magnified in the Russian capital, leaving their proud record of never being eliminated in the group stage of a World Cup already in danger.
Joachim Loew started eight of the nine 2014 World Cup winners in his squad, with Mesut Ozil returning from a knee injury and Manuel Neuer back in goal following his lengthy absence for the Group F clash.
Jerome Boateng’s build-up to the finals was also hampered by a groin injury, but the Bayern Munich centre-back was on the alert inside 60 seconds to thrust himself desperately in front of a Lozano effort.
A remarkably open start saw Timo Werner sprint in behind the Mexico defence before dragging across the face of goal, while Mats Hummels shot straight at Guillermo Ochoa after a botched clearance.
Neuer held well twice in quick succession, first from a long-range Hector Herrera strike and then again to keep out Hector Moreno’s header, as Mexico attacked the Germany backline with regularity.
Carlos Salcedo nearly diverted a teasing cross into his own net, while Timo Werner hit tamely at Ochoa when an umarked Julian Draxler appeared the better option.
Mexico continued to threaten, Miguel Layun narrowly unable to latch onto a through ball, but their goal arrived 10 minutes before the break as Germany were again sliced apart.
After Sami Khedira lost possession, Javier Hernandez triggered a lightning counter before finding a charging Lozano, who cut inside a covering Ozil and lashed low inside Neuer’s near post to spark deafening roars from the sizeable Mexico support.
Germany hit back, Toni Kroos rattling the crossbar with a 25-yard free-kick that needed the fingertips of a scrambling Ochoa to keep it out, but Mexico barely clung on to their advantage.
Marco Reus was introduced on the hour as Loew sought to invigorate a struggling side, while 39-year-old Rafael Marquez became just the third player to feature at five World Cups as he was brought on the tighten Mexico’s defence.
Joshua Kimmich’s acrobatic overhead kick looped onto the roof of the net, with substitute Edson Alvarez then blocking bravely to thwart Draxler.
Reus also hammered a volley over from a narrow angle before a frenetic finale saw Julian Brandt, just on for Werner, smack the outside of the post with a thunderous effort from 20 yards.
One desperate last attack had Neuer come up for a corner, but a towering header from the veteran Marquez and subsequent claim from Ochoa allowed Mexico to close out an unforgettable triumph.
“I don’t know if it’s the biggest [victory in Mexico’s history], but it’s one of the biggest for sure. It’s great to start on the right foot, against the reigning world champions. It’s a great result and shows our hard work,” said Hirving Lozano, scorer of the winning and only goal of the match and Budweiser Man of the Match.
“It’s the best goal I’ve scored in my entire life. We all dream of playing in a World Cup – and to start in such a positive and important way – I think it’s my best goal so far,” he added.
While Mexico will next meet South Korea, Germany will face Sweden in the Group F.