Mexico stun Germany in pulsating World Cup opener

Mexico’s Hirving Lozano, celebrates scoring his side’s opening goal during the group F match between Germany and Mexico at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Could this be the match where the World Cup finally came to life?

Mexico have stunned defending champions Germany in their opening World Cup clash, winning a pulsating clash 1-0 which saw 18 shots (9 of them on target) in a breathless first half alone.

El Hirving Lozano scored the only goal of the match when he capped off a clinical counter-attack which ripped open Germany’s flat-footed defence in the 35th minute.

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It was El Tri’s first ever competitive win over Germany and avenged their 4-1 defeat to Die Mannschaft at last year’s Confederations Cup.

The result means Germany are the third champions in succession – following Italy (2010) and Spain (2014) – to start their defence with a defeat.

The first half saw both sides throw caution to the wind and commit players forward – Germany were happy to keep possession and force their way through, while Mexico were happy to soak up pressure and break rapidly on the counter-attack.

Mexico’s Javier Hernandez and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, left, celebrate at the end of the group F match between Germany and Mexico at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

Germany had the first real chance, striker Timo Werner flashing a shot across goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa from an acute angle.

Die Mannschaft kept up the early pressure and Joshua Kimmich’s crosses from the right were posing a danger to Mexico’s goal all match. Carlos Salcedo had a lucky escape when he sent one of Kimmich’s crosses inches wide of his own post in the 16th minute.

Toni Kroos and Werner both had decent opportunities to score but Ochoa was able to save from both easily.

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However, with Germany committing men forward they were leaving plenty of space to be exploited in their midfield and Mexico almost took the lead in the 18th minute.

Hector Moreno took advantage of that space and fed Javier Hernandez into the area, but rather than shooting the West Ham striker tried to come onto his right foot and the chance was gone.

The pattern of the game was being set – Germany were committing men forward, while their opponents were happy to strike on the break, El Tri even leaving three men up for German set pieces.

Mexico gradually began to take charge of the game but far too often, they were being let down by some poor final decisions.

Soccer Football – World Cup – Group F – Germany vs Mexico – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia – June 17, 2018 Germany’s Thomas Muller reacts REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Hirving Lozano was central to every Mexico attack and he almost teed up Hernandez again, before Lozano then set up fullback Miguel Layun, whose shot from 20 yards went high and wide.

Left back Jesus Gallardo then delivered a teasing cross which just eluded Hernandez.

Germany looked shell-shocked by their opponents’ verve and vigour, and eventually fell behind 10 minutes before the break.

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Germany lost the ball on the edge of their own box, Andres Guardardo played a one-two with Hernandez on the halfway line which left defender Mats Hummels on his backside.

Lozano raced through on goal, cut inside a weak challenge from Mesut Ozil and fired the ball past Manuel Neuer at his near post.

Germany nearly hit back right away, but Toni Kroos’ sublime free-kick was brilliantly turned on to the bar by Ochoa’s fingertips.

The second half started in much the same vein with Germany spending the first 10 minutes camped in Mexico’s half and they were almost rewarded when Werner found Julian Draxler on the overlap, but his shot was deflected just wide.

However, with Germany’s midfield and defence on skates, they were always vulnerable to a counter attack and Mexico almost put the game to bed in the 56th minute.

Mexico had a two-on-one overlap, and Javier Hernandez should have found find Carlos Vela for a tap-in but his pass was not good enough and the chance went begging.

Manager Joachim Low’s response to fix his midfield was to remove the defensive-minded Sami Khedira for Borussia Dortmund attacker Marco Reus.

However, despite laying siege to Mexico’s goal, Low’s star-studded team continued to misfire.

Mexico were able to keep them at bay until Kimmich’s ambitious overhead kick and Werner’s instinctive close-range effort both flashed narrowly over in quick succession midway through the half.

El Tri then had the best chance of the second half late on, but Miguel Layun wasted another breakaway and they were fortunate to see Julian Brandt’s half-volleyed effort clip the post in a frantic finish to proceedings.

This was the first time a German side had lost their opening game of this tournament since 1982, when West Germany were upset by Algeria.

It could turn out to be a damaging defeat too. Although Germany will still be expected to beat Sweden and South Korea and progress, the runner-up in Group F will face a last-16 tie against the Group E winner, expected to be Brazil.