MOSCOW (Reuters) - Mexico sprang the perfect trap for confident and overwhelming pre-game favourites Germany on Sunday to take advantage of the champions’ defensive weakness in their opening match at the World Cup.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio lulled the four-time tournament winners into a false sense of security, fielding only one out-and-out forward in Javier Hernandez and awarding their opponents possession of the ball.
The Germans had more than 60 percent of it throughout the game but were unable make it count and break down a disciplined four-man defence, which at every opportunity fed Hirving Lozano, Carlos Vela and Hernandez for counter-attack after counter-attack.
The strategy left Germany’s central defenders Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng painfully exposed at the back, gasping for air and unable to cover the large patches in their own half left open.
Looking cumbersome and slow, Hummels and Boateng had little support as their holding midfielders Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos joined the attack, leaving the pair to battle against two or even three opponents at a time.
Germany, who went into the game having won all five previous encounters at international tournaments against the Mexicans, had no answer to that strategy in the first half and only upped the pressure after the break.
They have only themselves to blame, however, because the warning signs were there in their final warmup games going into the tournament.
A 2-1 loss to Austria and a narrow 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia had highlighted exactly that weakness in the world champions, with Germany caught napping by the low-ranked Saudis several times throughout their game.
Coach Joachim Loew warned his players that such performances would not carry them far in Russia.
But he somehow failed to heed his own warning, refusing to substitute ineffective midfielder Mesut Ozil, who often lost possession in the Mexican half, and keeping speedy Marco Reus on the bench for an hour.
By that time, however, there was little he or fellow substitutes Mario Gomez and Julian Brandt could do.
The Mexicans had more than half a dozen opportunities in the game and should have made sure of victory much earlier with more clinical finishing. But their win puts them in the driving seat in Group F, with Germany in the rare position of having their backs to the wall.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Hugh Lawson