2018-06-17 16:09:09
Seismic Event: Mexico Stuns Germany at the World Cup

16:09, June 17 332 0

MOSCOW — Hirving Lozano’s first-half goal and sturdy second-half defense gave Mexico a 1-0 victory over Germany on Sunday, providing the first major surprise of the 2018 World Cup. It was hard to recall a bigger result for Mexico, which has hosted the World Cup twice but has never advanced past the quarterfinals.

Germany, the defending World Cup champion, has won the tournament four times, and was expected to seriously challenge for a fifth crown in Russia. But the Germans seemed flummoxed by the Mexicans’ speed and directness in the first half, and they couldn’t find a reply to Lozano’s goal.

The largely pro-Mexican crowd willed their team to victory in the final 20 minutes, when they gave up the initiative but never surrendered. Mexico even recorded a World Cup milestone in the second half: the veteran defender Rafael Márquez came on as a substitute in the 74th minute, becoming only the third player to appear in five World Cups.

Germany seemed out of sorts for most of the game, put off by Mexico’s initiative, its willingness to attack in numbers and, perhaps most important, by its speed. Mexico Coach Juan Carlos Osorio said that had been his team’s attack plan for six months: to exploit the speed of Lozano on the wing in partnership with players like Miguel Layún and Javier Hernández.

“Due to injuries we had to change some of it, but the plan was always two quick players on the wings: Hirving, our fastest, and an offensive midfielder like Layún,” Osorio said. “The first half, we managed to defend intelligently and hurt them on the counter. We could have hurt them much earlier.”

Lozano’s goal was the product of one such burst in the 35th minute. Led wide, and forward, by a pass from striker Hernández, Lozano turned Germany’s Mesut Özil inside out as he cut into the penalty area and pulled a right-footed shot inside goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s right post.

How big was the goal in Mexico? The Mexican government said it reported a small artificial earthquake in Mexico City in the moments after Lozano’s shot his the back of the German net “possibly due to mass jumping.”

Osorio had a far more subdued reaction.

“We scored and I just sat down and thought about the plan,” he said, “which was in the next five minutes, not to allow a goal.”

The win must have felt especially sweet for Osorio, who is the subject of endless criticism and second-guessing in Mexico. But, despite a victory over the defending World Cup champions, he chose not to gloat. Instead, he deflected the praise onto other, even name-checking the team’s mental coach, who was hired several years ago to help the players overcome both their countryman’s high expectations and the national team’s history of failure at the World Cup.

“We want to dedicate this great result to all the Mexican fans who have traveled here, the people behind the scenes who have helped in our work, and the people who have supported us,” Osorio said. “We will try to bring them joy.”

Germany will have work to do now to advance from the group stage, with games against Sweden and South Korea to come. Told that several recent World Cup champions had exited in the group stage in the next cycle — including Spain (2014), Italy (2010) and France (2002) — Germany’s coach, Joachim Löw, struck a defiant tone.

“We will not suffer that fate,” he said. “We will make it to the next round.”

But in losing on Sunday, Germany has given up the steering wheel in the group to Mexico, which arrived in Russia with its most talented, most experienced, most highly regarded team in years. It surely now feels anything must be possible.

“I told them to play for the love of winning,” he said, “and not the fear of losing.”

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Here’s how Mexico pulled off the upset of Germany:

Gomez down in the box asking for a penalty. Salcedo calls him a cheat for diving. And the corner is cleared by Mexico!

Mexico just holding on now. The crowd is willing them on. You can feel it inside the Luzhniki. A failed chance for Germany leaves several of its players with their hands on their heads.

Mexico suddenly has its fire back. They can taste a win now.Long shot by Kroos, which Ochoa spills, but no one there to jump on the rebound. Busting out, Hummels clatters a Mexican and he, too, get a yellow. Carbon copy of Müller’s.

Yellow for Thomas Müller, who whacks down Herrera to stop a potential breakout. Mexico suddenly has its fire back. They can taste a win now.

Layun gets another open look. And fires another off-target shot. But the Germans are getting caught now as they press forward: suddenly it seems equally likely that they’ll surrender a second before they get a first.

Ageless, handsome striker Mario Gomez on for Germany, which withdraws Plattenhardt from its defense.

A turnover sends Layun on the break against Plattenhardt, and sends Neuer scrambling back from where he had drifted near midfield. But a cut and a long shot yield only a German goal kick.

Marquez on for Mexico!!!! What a moment. This is his fifth World Cup, putting him in elite company.

Only his countryman Antonio Carbajal and Germany’s Lothar Matthaus have played in five (Gigi Buffon of Italy made five teams but only played four tournaments.)

But Marquez is here in uncomfortable circumstances: he’s on a toxic watch list kept by the Treasury Department, which has accused him of financial dealing with an accused Mexican drug kingpin. (Marquez is not accused of drug offenses.)

Reus gets two bites at the apple after Boateng feeds him in the right side of Mexcio’s penalty area. His cross is deflected right back at him after hitting Alvarez, the substitute, square in the face. Reus slashes at the return ball, sending in wide of the goal. But Alvarez is bleeding now, so we’ll pause for treatment.

A bit of controversy here: Chicharito was in, kept onside by the farside German defender, and then he is muscled down by Hummels. The offside flag is up though, and so that spares the Iranian ref the argument of whether it was a penalty.

Draxler, and then Werner, both misfire in quick succession. Those were good chances, which seem to be arriving with a bit more regularity now.

Raul Jimenez on for Lozano, the goal-scorer. He leaves to cheers. And probably with an empty tank.

A cross to Kimmich in the area and, with the ball behind him, he tries to jackknife it over his head. The attempt sails just over Ochoa’s bar, but he was nervous for a second that it would sneak under.

Not for nothing, but we’re well over an hour in and Mexico is beating Germany at the World Cup.

Germany basically playing with two at the back now: Boateng and Hummels. Everyone else is fully committed to breaking down Mexico, which has clearly lost the initiative it carried for most of the first half.

Löw counters with Marco Reus, an attacking midfielder, for Sami Khedira, who’s more of a burly control-the-middle type. That sends its own message: “Here we come,” Germany is saying.

First sub of the day: Mexico’s Edson Alvarez on for a clearly disappointed-to-be-coming-off Vela.

Alvarez, by the way, is a defender. So Orosio sends a signal there; he doesn’t like how the Germans have taken control, and he wants an extra hand back to help.

Kimmich pulled a fast one on the Iranian referee there. Relieved of the ball one on one near midfield, he dropped and then pretended he’d been kick to win a free kick.

We’ve spent a bit of time in the Mexican end this half. It’s subtle, but it does have the feelings like the Germans are setting up a vise and want to start squeezing Mexico in it.

A reminder that Juan Carlos Osorio told everyone straight out yesterday that Mexico was coming to play, Germans or no Germans. “We will not change the way we play. We have our style in the Mexican national team, and we’re going to match up with their game.”

Back under way at the Luzhniki. Mexico now probing Germany at the other end of the field. But the half starts with far less urgency than the match did.

Chucky Lozano’s first-half goal — the product of some hard work, and perhaps an inevitable mistake by a German right back who likes to wander upfield, has Mexico in front of Germany, 1-0, in Moscow.

That was a drag-race of a half by Mexico, which ran at the Germans at every opportunity, and got some good chances out of it. But the Germans hit the bar, and they’ve been in tough spots before, so let’s not pretend this is anyplace close to over.

Rory Smith: There was definitely an element of that Mexican-ness that was confusing the Germans in the first half. They’ll have played against teams who sit and counter before, and probably teams who sit and counter this well. But the Mexican movement is quite unusual — the attacks aren’t following the patterns you expect. They’re also doing everything at INSANE speed, aren’t they?

One minute of added time. I think everyone needs a break anyway. Frantic, hard-charging half by Mexico. Their pace is really putting the Germans under uncommon pressure.

Every Mexican rush sounds like that sound you hear as a jet takes off. They comes upfield sprinting like they’re about to take off, too. The fans’ expectation is contagious. You’re almost disappointed when nothing happens.

Germany off the bar! With Hernadez screaming for Lozano to come back and defend, a Toni Kroos free kick clears the wall and is pushed onto the bar by Ochoa.

Hirving Lozano finally makes the Germans pay on the left wing. Hernandez got the ball in the middle and smartly sent it out wide to his left. Lozano, with a backtracking Mesut Özil turned, cuts back inside and rockets a ball inside Neuer’s post Mexico 1-0.

The Mexican fans are, um, pleased.

Rory Smith: Oddly, Hirving Lozano — Chucky, to you and me — came into this tournament under quite a lot of pressure. A 22-year-old winger who plays his club soccer in the Netherlands, is at his first World Cup, and is not playing for one of the favorites shouldn’t really have to cope with especially high expectations, but he had been nominated, unofficially, as the most likely breakout star in Russia. That goal will not help the hype. It does begin to justify it, though.

Vela leads Layun juuuuuuuuuust too far in the center of the German area. He was in, but the pass was a yard too strong.

BIG collision at midfield between Hernandez and Boateng, which is like a compact car vs. S.U.V. Both go down but somehow Boateng seems to have taken the worst of it.

Lozano (a couple times) and now Vela have gotten free on Germany’s right side. Part of that is surely because Germany’s right back, Joshua Kimmich, plays more or less as a forward most of the time. But Mexico has caught him upfield at least three times now on quick breakouts. Osorio clearly has identified that as a gap he wants to exploit.

Lozano lifts the Mexicans hopes again. And Layun fires high over the bar again.

There’s our first ‘Puto’ chant of the day. Mexico surely can expect yet another fine for that. Maybe, just maybe, FIFA needs to raise the number, because it isn’t going away.

Mexico’s Osorio has been prowling his coaching box in white shirt sleeves, black slacks and those white-soled shoes all the cool kids are wearing. Löw, on the other side, is doing the same. He’s in all black, skin tight, and shoes so white you could probably see them if you looked out your window tonight.

Chicharito with a chance, as he drives into the area and then slips free of two Germans. But in turning he runs into a couple more, and they know what to do about that.

Özil get a little space on the left but — this will not surprise the Arsenal fans among you — plays it a bit too casual and Mexico scrambles back to cover up.

Real danger there as Ayala goes to clear a cross, misses, and Salcedo — surprised — nearly turns the ball into his own net!

A bit of back and forth and now Mexico wins a free kick on the right. Great delivery, but Moreno couldn’t get enough on it to trouble Neuer. Mexico holding its own; can’t tell if Germany is a bit slow, or just extremely confident and untroubled.

A lazy deflection falls to Hummels at the top of the Mexico penalty area and his lazy shot rolls lazily into the arms of an unbothered Ochoa. So that’s not exactly a chance.

This is, though. Hummels clips Vela just above the circle at the top of Germany’s area. Layún stands over it.

But his shot sails well over Neuer, quite a feat since he’s 11 feet tall.

Timo Werner gives the Germans a quick look, but he pulls his right-footed shot wide of Ochoa.

Neuer and then Khedira hear boos too. So apparently we’re just booing randomly at this point.

Like every game so far, both teams come screaming out of the gate like it’s the Kentucky Derby. Hirving “Chucky” Lozano get the first chance, breaking into the box from the right but his shot is blocked. The corner yields a half chance, but Neuer flops onto it.

Jerome Boateng is really hearing from the Mexican fans. Every touch is just a cascade of boos.

There is a strong communal vibe — for now — in the concourses at the Luzhniki. But then you don’t have to be a master reporter to know that 100-deep beer lines that don’t get ugly would seem to suggest that, no?

The vibe inside the arena’s massive bowl is the same. The Germans are swirling flags to the left of me, and the Mexicans are a wall of green to the right. And across. And behind the Germans. Did they steal the Peruvians ticket-buying playbook?

Randy Archibold, the NYT’s deputy sports editor and a former Mexico City bureau chief, writes:

As Mexico takes the field for the first time in this World Cup, it has once again been trailed by the debate over its fans’ propensity to chant “Eeeh .... puto!” to taunt the opposing goalkeeper whenever he lines up and punts the ball upfield.

“Puto” is a homophobic slur, and the Mexican soccer federation has been fined several times for fans’ use of it.

Last month, one of Mexico’s largest beer companies, Grupo Modelo, introduced a campaign for its Victoria beer by suggesting fans shout “Putin!” instead of “Puto.” The campaign was quickly abandoned, however, after widespread condemnation — including from the Russian ambassador to Mexico.

“We are not so stupid to understand it’s a play on words,” said the ambassador, Eduard Malayán, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais. “We are not accustomed to shouting names or surnames of political personalities in our stadiums.”

Yet as Mexican fans arrived in Russia, news organizations quoted a number of them saying they plan to chant cheekily anyway, some sticking by “puto,” others considering using “Putin.”

“It has become our battle cry,” the Mexican newspaper Reforma quoted a fan vowing to shout “puto.” The newspaper said that even in the Moscow airport the chant was rising up among arriving fans.