MOSCOW (Reuters) – Defending champions Germany crashed to defeat in their first game at the World Cup on Sunday as an enterprising Mexico refused to be intimidated by history and ran out 1-0 winners in a thrilling Group F opener.
A shaky warm-up campaign had called into question the dominant form the Germans showed in qualifying, but experience and records were on their side, having won every opening game at major tournaments since Joachim Loew took over as coach in 2006.
Juan Carlos Osorio’s side had other ideas, however, holding their own against the favorites’ fearsome but slowing midfield and finding space at the back and seeking to end 33 years without a win against Germany. After wasting a handful of first-half chances while living dangerously in their own half, Hirving Lozano’s 35th-minute strike on the break proved just reward.
When center back Mats Hummels lost possession deep in the Mexican half, Javier Hernandez was released through the middle. He outpaced Jerome Boateng and with a less than perfect pass found Lozano, who controlled the ball, cut inside Mesut Ozil, held off a charging Toni Kroos and slotted past Manuel Neuer.
“Our motto was play with the love of winning and not the fear of losing,” said a delighted Osorio.
For Loew, “we played badly”, gave the Mexicans too much space, lost too many balls and rushed chances under pressure.
“It’s an unfamiliar situation,” he said, while insisting the team “has enough experience to not go under with one defeat”.
“But the next game is now more important,” he added of Saturday’s clash with Sweden. “We have to win.”
Finishing second in the group could well mean facing Brazil rather than Switzerland or Serbia in the next round.