Defending champions Germany made a disastrous start to their bid to win back-to-back World Cups with a shock defeat by Mexico.
Hirving Lozano’s first-half goal was the difference between the two sides in an enthralling encounter in Moscow, but the surprising result was not the only concern for Germany coach Joachim Low.
His disjointed side looked extraordinarily vulnerable on the break even before Javier Hernandez punished them with the pass that set up Lozano to cut inside fire home.
Toni Kroos almost replied instantly with a free-kick but Guillermo Ochoa tipped it on to the bar and that was the closest Germany came to an equalizer.
Despite facing some sustained late pressure, Mexico held on to inflict a first World Cup defeat on Die Mannschaft since they lost to Spain in the 2010 semi-final.
This was also 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.
Unconvincing Germany pay the price
Low’s side had come into the tournament on the back of some unconvincing displays and results in their recent friendlies, but there had been no sign of panic in their camp.
Things were very different at a noisy Luzhniki Stadium, with Germany showing little of the composure or class we associate with them at major finals.
Even before they went behind, they were often over-run in midfield, with Kroos and Sami Khedira unable to offer their defense any protection from Mexico’s rapid counter-attacks.
Germany’s right flank seemed susceptible on the break, with Joshua Kimmich’s forays forward leaving space for Lozano and Hernandez to gallop into unchallenged.
If ‘El Tri’ had made more of their chances, or found a better final ball, then they could have been two or three goals ahead by half-time.
At the other end, Germany were also unconvincing in the early stages, with their famed midfield machine struggling to find a way through Mexico’s determined defense.
Although they improved in the second half, and dominated possession, Germany’s finishing touch eluded them and Mexico continued to cause problems on the counter.
- Mexico have won their opening match at a World Cup for the fifth time in their past six tournaments (drawing the other).
- This is the third consecutive World Cup in which the reigning champions have failed to win their opening match – Italy drew 1-1 with Paraguay in 2010, and Spain lost 5-1 against the Netherlands in 2014.
- Mexico beat Germany for only the second time – their last win against them came in a friendly in June 1985.
- Hirving Lozano was Mexico’s top scorer in 2018 World Cup qualifying (four goals) and scored his first finals goal in this match.
- Germany had 26 shots, the most by a side without scoring in a World Cup match since 2006 (Portugal v England, 29 shots in a 0-0 draw).
- Mexico have lost just two of their past 18 World Cup group games (W9 D7).
- This was Germany’s first defeat in a competitive match since losing 2-0 to France in the Euro 2016 semi-final.
- Germany named their oldest starting XI for a World Cup match (average age: 27 years 310 days) since the 2002 final against Brazil (28 years 166 days).
- Rafael Marquez featured in his fifth World Cup finals (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018), becoming just the third player to achieve this feat – along with Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal (1950, 1954, 1958, 1962 and 1966) and Germany’s Lothar Matthaus (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998).
Mexico play South Korea on Saturday in Rostov-on-Don (16:00 BST), while Germany take on Sweden in Sochi later the same day (19:00).