The World Cup has seen quite a few underdog performances but Mexico’s 1-0 victory over defending champions Germany was the most impressive given the manner in which they won.
While the likes of Iceland and Switzerland thwarted Messi and Neymar by sitting back, Mexico’s approach in victory over reigning champions Germany, however, was braver, bolder and ultimately more successful. Not to mention that it was one of the most entertaining games in this World Cup.
The Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio used a 4-2-3-1 formation, one that is thought to be pretty good for playing on the counter attack and it was a setup which came as a surprise since they rarely used this system during qualifiers.
“Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio has been criticised for his constant chopping and changing, but while he might be reactive, that doesn’t mean he’s defensive,” Michael Cox, wrote for the Independent.
How Mexico stopped Germany playing their game
First they stopped the German midfield machinery
One of the key players in the German setup is Toni Kroos, who sits at the heart of the German team and is the metronome that sets the tempo of attack.
Kroos, Germany’s deep lying midfielder was marked by physically imposing attacking player Carlos Vela. Centre forward Javier Hernandez would often fall back to pick up Kroos as well.
With Kroos failing to influence the game, Jerome Boateng resorted to spraying hopeful diagonal balls into the final third, generally without success.
Interestingly, Mexico ignored Germany’s Martin Plattenhard, playing at left-back completely during the game. Germany in turn were not looking to build their attack through Plattenhard’s side as well.
Miguel Layun on the right, tucked inside to assist midfield duo Andreas Guardado and Hector Herrera, frequently leaving Plattenhardt all alone.
That meant that the real point of focus for the German attack was through the right side where Joshua Kimmich played a very attacking role.
Kimmich frequently overlapped past Muller and attacked with crosses. He nearly came close to making Mexico right-back Carlos Salcedo to score an own goal. He would even use a bicycle kick from central zone in the penalty area.
However, Kimmich’s attacking tendencies caused serious problem for German defense as Herving Lozano, playing on the left, remained in a position to counter-attack and regularly found space on the outside of Boateng.
Boateng and Hummels were frequently put in uncomfortable situations with just two or three manning the German backline and several Mexican players making runs. Better decision making could have easily led to more goals for Mexico on the counter attack.
The beautiful move that created the goal
Mexico centre forward Hernandez had an excellent game throughout and he would bring up Hummels and Boateng with him when he dropped and created space for others in behind the German defence.
The move that led to the goal was lightning quick. Kimmich had overlapped and once Germany lost possession, Lozano had space to attack on the left.
Hector Moreno played a direct pass into Hernandez who had again moved deep. A neat one-two with Guadado left Hummels on the floor and Hernandez capitalized by releasing Lozano.
Mesut Ozil had desperately scampered back to fill the vacant space left by Kimmich but Lozano skipped past a tackle before driving in a fierce shot to give the lead to Mexico.