A carefully planned Mexican victory

17 Jun 2018
  • Mexico recorded their first win against Germany at the FIFA World Cup™

  • El Tri  have won five of their last six opening matches at the world finals

  • Hirving Lozano scored on his World Cup debut

By Martin Langer, with Mexico

Nobody predicted this. Anyone who said they could see it happening was most probably lying, with the exception, that is, of Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio or one of his players. Over the last few months, Osorio has been hatching a plan to defeat the reigning world champions, and today at the Luzhniki Stadium, El Tri executed it to perfection.

We reveal the keys to Mexico’s historic triumph in Moscow.

Constant pressing

“We know Germany’s style and we know that the success of their system is based on Toni Kroos’ legs, so our number one priority was to neutralise him,” Javier Chicharito Hernandez told us. “But it wasn’t just a case of trying to do that with him. It was my job to try and stop [Mats] Hummels, who’s their best defender on the ball, from playing his game. The aim was to disrupt their flow.”

While Germany enjoyed more possession, particularly in the second half, Mexico’s pressing game made sure the holders were never at ease. Proof of that is the fact that El Tri recovered possession 38 times to the Germans’ 31.

Speed on the counter

“We knew that El Profe [‘The Professor’, to give Osorio his nickname] had spent months working on his plan but he only told us about it a little while ago,” explained Hector Herrera, who also had an outstanding afternoon. “The idea was to press them and also to spread the play as quickly as possible and make the most of the speed of our attacking players.”

It was Herrera who began the move that led to Mexico’s goal with a superb pass into the path of Chicharito, who in turn fed the ball on for Hirving Lozano to fire home. It was not the only excellent chance created by El Tri, who time and again exploited the space left by the German midfield to threaten Manuel Neuer’s goal.

Confidence and team spirit

“This win belongs to all the players and to El Profe Osorio more than anyone else,” said midfielder Edson Alvarez, who came on as a substitute in Moscow. “We knew he’d prepared the match in depth and we put ourselves in his hands. And he showed his faith in us too. I am extremely grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to play in the World Cup at the age of only 20.”

Those sentiments were widely shared among the Mexico players, who all spoke of the high spirits in the Tri camp and of their faith in Osorio’s plans, with Chicharito going as far as to describe him as a “genius”. The feeling is mutual. Speaking after the final whistle, the Colombian coach said: “The credit should go to the players. The experienced ones got the message across to the youngsters and everyone competed supremely well. We were brave. We play for the love of winning not the fear of losing.”

Learning fast

It was only a year ago that Mexico were beaten 4-1 by Germany at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017. As far as Herrera is concerned, that result was crucial to today’s win: “It goes without saying that we learned from what happened that day. We knew we couldn’t leave them so much space, that we had to press them the whole time. It was crucial for us to play like that.”

Hernandez refused to get carried away with the result, another sign of Mexico’s learning process: “What’s the point of us winning today if we then go and lose to Sweden or Korea Republic? Obviously we celebrated in the dressing room but it was pretty low key. This is the first step and there’s still a long way to go.”

That measured response was in stark contrast to the jubilant celebrations of the Tri fans during and after the game. Though the tournament has only just begun, the date 17 June 2018 is one that has already been etched in the history of Mexican football.