Mexico’s fight not enough against clinical Brazilians

Fernandinho picked out Neymar in acres of space. It was a rare treat for Neymar, who had seemingly been hacked, stamped on and brutalised every time he received the ball. With Mexico’s defence caught out, Brazil’s talismanic winger surged forward, revelling in the chance to show his markers a clean pair of heels. Unlike Mexico’s attackers, whose play was riddled with unnecessary touches in the final third, Neymar just ran straight at the Mexican goal, making no beelines and clearly outstripping the futile attempts to pursue him. Eventually, he found himself one-on-one with Guillermo Ochoa, and with a brilliant chance to score his second goal and seal Brazil’s place in the quarter-finals. Ochoa, not for the first time, denied Brazil with an excellent save, getting his foot to Neymar’s shot to keep it from finding the back of the net. Not for the first time, his defence let him down. Roberto Firmino, introduced from the bench a few minutes earlier, won the race to the ball, and scored with a straightforward tap in. Brazil were through, and Mexico’s World Cup campaign was over.

Brazil looked distinctly off colour in the opening exchanges as Mexico started confidently. The Mexicans never really threatened Alisson in the Brazilian goal, with many of their attempts being blocked and most of their attacks lacking a clinical touch in the final third, but the warning signs were there. More worryingly for Brazil, their attacks looked disjointed and unthreatening, and they didn’t lay a glove on the Mexican defence for much of the first half hour. At one point, Brazil won a throw-in, and Fagner managed to throw it to none of his teammates. Mexico went up the field dangerously, but Hirving Lozano couldn’t complete a cross in the final third. That one piece of play was an almost perfect representation of Brazil’s fragility and Mexico’s poor conversion of opportunities.

Then Neymar made something happen. He danced past Edson Álvarez and Hugo Ayala, and forced Guillermo Ochoa into a save with a shot from a ridiculously tight angle. He never had a realistic chance of scoring, but the ball began to ping around the Mexican defence, causing chaos at every turn. When Philippe Coutinho blasted a shot over the bar Mexico could breathe after a minute or two of goalmouth action, but the warning was clear. Mexico hadn’t forced Alisson into a difficult save despite all of their dangerous-looking attacks, while one run from Neymar had nearly broken their defence open.

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Roberto Firmino scores Brazil’s second goal from point-blank range. Firmino’s goal snuffed out any hopes Mexico had of causing an upset and progressing to the quarter-finals.

There were more signs of Brazil’s danger in the minutes that followed. Neymar found space on the left, and only an excellent slide tackle from Álvarez kept him from breaking through. More bedlam in the box ensued when Gabriel Jesus ran into space and fired a left-footed shot at Ochoa, who parried it away. Even that wasn’t enough, as Brazil got another shot away and it had to be cleared off the line. Neymar won a free-kick, and Álvarez found himself in the book, when the young right-back kicked at the ball and instead upended the Brazilian superstar rather emphatically. Neymar’s free-kick whizzed past the bar. Brazil had found their mojo, and it wasn’t looking too good for Mexico when the half time whistle blew.

Brazil kept pushing after the break, and they were soon ahead. They started well as Coutinho ran straight through the Mexican defence and Ochoa needed all of his reflexes to bat the ball away. They scored a few minutes later. Neymar started it, darting in from the left and playing a brilliant back-heel for Willian as the Brazilian wingers crossed over. Willian took a fraction of a second to weigh up his options before taking a heavy touch and bursting past the Mexican defence to find space in the box. His dangerous ball across goal beat Ochoa’s dive, and no Mexican defender was there to clear the ball away. Instead, Jesus and Neymar were sliding in, hoping to capitalise. Jesus just missed it, but Neymar connected and steered the ball into the back of the net.

Mexico kept playing with verve and ambition, but they couldn’t break down the Brazilian defence. Alisson finally needed to make a save when Vela unleashed a dangerous looking shot on the break, and he casually tipped the ball over the bar. His manner suggested he could have saved the shot with his eyes closed. Mostly, however, they took one touch too many, or missed passes, or did both. In the end, Brazil’s centre-backs had a busy but not too difficult time getting in the way of Mexico’s attempts on goal, and the Mexicans didn’t really look like scoring. It was a different story at the other end, where Ochoa was still making all of the tough saves. He needed to act quickly to deny Paulinho and Willian after good attacking moves, and Brazil’s attacks seemed to become more and more threatening as Mexico pushed harder and space began to open up.

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Neymar reacts after receiving a stamp on the foot from Miguel Layún. Layún wasn’t punished for the incident, but it showed the heated nature of the contest.

In the middle of it all, there were the fouls. Neymar, and to a lesser extent his teammates, were treated very physically by the Mexican defenders, culminating in a touchline incident which left Neymar writhing on the ground in seeming agony and Miguel Layún fiercely protesting his innocence. More fouls were committed as the game drew on, most of them emanating from overly rough Mexican defence, but Brazil kept their heads and kept marching on. The second goal, starting with some good play in the middle and displaying the clinical touch Mexico lacked, was a fitting way to end a slightly nervous but ultimately comfortable win. They’re in the quarter-finals, and they are sure to be a tough opponent.

Samara – Cosmos Arena
Brazil 2 (Neymar 51, Roberto Firmino 88)
Mexico 0
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Ita)
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Alisson – Fagner, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Filipe Luís; Paulinho (Fernandinho 80), Casemiro; Willian (Marquinhos 90+1), Philippe Coutinho (Roberto Firmino 86), Neymar; Gabriel Jesus.
Mexico (4-3-3): Ochoa – Álvarez (J dos Santos 55), Ayala, Salcedo, Gallardo; Herrera, Márquez (Layún 46), Guardado; Lozano, Hernández (Jiménez 60), Vela.

Top 5
1. Willian (Brazil)
Willian was patchy in the group stages, but he found his best form against Mexico with a dynamic performance on the right wing. He created Neymar’s first goal, and plenty of good things came when he ran at the Mexican defence with purpose and composure. Above all, he looked confident, something that bodes well for the road ahead.
2. Neymar (Brazil)
Neymar knows how to make things happen. He won countless free-kicks thanks to Mexico’s overly physical treatment of him, but he continued to get up and he was rewarded with a goal and an assist. When he had space to run with the ball he put the Mexicans under pressure.
3. Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Ochoa completed a brilliant tournament with another stunning performance in the Mexican goal, parrying a number of dangerous looking shots to safety and repelling attack after attack with his reflexes and excellent positioning. It’s hard to know what more he could have done.
4. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
Coutinho’s excellent form continued with another strong effort in attacking midfield, and his combinations with almost all of his teammates had good results. He worked into little pockets of space perfectly, and he found plenty of room to take on his dangerous shots from outside the box. He looks like the creative force Brazil need to go a long way.
5. Andrés Guardado (Mexico)
With Rafael Márquez drafted into the starting line-up Guardado was freed to push further up the field early on, and he challenged the Brazilians with some good runs and some dangerous crosses. In the second half, with Márquez removed, he played well in a more defensive role, showing his versatility and his determination to give his all.

Mexico progress, but confidence in tatters after Swedish blitz

Bizarre scenes ensued as the final whistle blew to end Mexico’s clash with Sweden. In the stands, the majority Mexican crowd was cheering, having learned of Germany’s spectacular collapse against the South Koreans. On the pitch, the Mexican players huddled together, reeling from a shock 3-0 defeat and thinking their World Cup campaign was over despite starting their tournament with two wins. The Swedish were happily oblivious to the impromptu Mexican gathering that was taking place in the middle of the pitch, instead contenting themselves with celebrating the crushing victory which emphatically sealed their spot at the top of a volatile Group F. Eventually, relief washed over Mexico as they learned of Germany’s demise, but the scars of an unexpected and crushing defeat will remain as they head for the round of 16.

It didn’t start well for Mexico. Referee Néstor Pitana dispensed the fastest yellow card in World Cup history, with Mexican left-back Jesús Gallardo going in the book after less than 15 seconds. The resultant free-kick was headed across goal by Marcus Berg and was only just dealt with by the Mexican defence. Not long afterwards, Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was penalised for handling the ball outside the box, and was forced to make a reflex save to deny Emil Forsberg’s free-kick. Berg and Andreas Granqvist combined to make Mexico very nervous as they got on the end of Ludwig Augustinsson’s corner, with Berg’s overhead kick only just missing the goal.

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Hirving Lozano (left) and Sebastian Larsson battle for the ball. Larsson was booked for the challenge, and a previous yellow card means that he will be suspended for Sweden’s round of 16 clash as a result.

Carlos Vela had a great chance at the other end when Sweden turned the ball over in a dangerous position, but he couldn’t quite test out the desperate dive of Robin Olsen with a shot that just flew wide. Mexico hadn’t quite weathered the storm, however. Forsberg had a brilliant opportunity when he got on the end of Mikael Lustig’s perfect cross, but he sent his shot flying over the bar.  Pitana checked for a potential handball in the box with the aid of technology, and Swedish coach Janne Andersson was fuming when the Argentinian referee determined that Javier Hernández had not committed an offence and no penalty was given. Ochoa was called into action almost immediately afterwards, tapping the ball over the bar from close range. Mexico started to get more opportunities, but the Swedish were still on top when the half time whistle blew.

The first goal came just after half time, with Augustinsson finding the back of the net after Berg’s cross bobbled around in the box. Viktor Claesson was in position to score when Berg rolled the ball in from the right, but he couldn’t hit his shot well enough and the ball looped up off his boot. As luck would have it, Augustinsson was perfectly positioned to take advantage of his teammates miscued shot, having pushed into the box from his normal defensive position. The left-back slammed it goalward, and it had too much force for Ochoa. The Mexican keeper got a touch, but he was never going to keep it out. Then, not long afterwards, centre-back Granqvist scored the second.

Héctor Moreno gave away the penalty which really put Mexico in trouble. Berg found some space to run into the box, and Moreno slid in from behind, took his legs out and conceded the penalty. Beads of sweat dripped down Granqvist’s forehead as he prepared to take the penalty, suggesting the Swedish captain was nervous. If he was, it didn’t affect his kick. The penalty was perfect, stroked above Ochoa’s dive and into the top corner. Sweden’s lead was doubled, and the Mexicans were in deep trouble. Juan Carlos Osorio threw attackers on, hoping against hope that his team could reduce the deficit, but they faced a determined Swedish defence who were ready to stop them at every turn. They only ended up going further behind.

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Guillermo Ochoa tries in vain to stop Andreas Granqvist’s excellent penalty. Ochoa did all he could, but the Mexican keeper couldn’t prevent the Swedish from turning their dominance into goals.

The third goal was a farce. Claesson heaved a long throw into the box, and the Mexicans panicked. Isaac Kiese Thelin managed to beat both Moreno and Carlos Salcedo in the air, and he flicked the ball towards the goalmouth. Ola Toivonen fought desperately to get a touch on the ball, but it eventually eluded his lunge and found its way to Edson Álvarez, who attempted a clearance. Somehow, Álvarez’s clearance never made it out of his own six-yard box. He muffed his attempted kick, and his poorly hit clearance ricocheted into his other leg and rolled into the back of his own net. There have been an unusually high number of own goals this tournament, but none have been quite so comical.

Mexico had chances as the game wound down, but they were struggling to get one goal, let alone three. Sweden’s defence was unyielding, and they held on to a clean sheet to cap off a near-perfect performance that will fill them with confidence heading into the knockout stages. For Mexico, their horror performance will have impacted their confidence going into the round of 16, and progress beyond that point suddenly seems a long way off.

Yekaterinburg – Central Stadium
Mexico 0
Sweden 3 (Augustinsson 50, Granqvist 62 pen, Álvarez 74 og)
Referee: Néstor Pitana (Arg)
Mexico (4-2-3-1): Ochoa – Álvarez, Salcedo, Moreno, Gallardo (Fabián 64); Guardado (J M Corona 75), Herrera; Layún (Peralta 89), Vela, Lozano; Hernández.
Sweden (4-4-2): Olsen – Lustig, Lindelöf, Granqvist, Augustinsson; Claesson, Larsson (Svensson 57), Ekdal (Hiljemark 80), Forsberg; Berg (Kiese Thelin 68), Toivonen.

Top 5
1. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden)
In terms of size, Granqvist was the biggest player on the pitch, and he seemed to tower above all others thanks to his sheer presence in the air. He was rarely, if ever, beaten in an aerial duel, he was always in good defensive positions and he even managed to score a penalty at the other end. A truly dominant defensive performance.
2. Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Ochoa stood up once again for the Mexicans, making some truly brilliant saves to deny Sweden as they besieged the Mexican goal in the first half. He kept them in the game, but he couldn’t clear up all of their defensive errors and he really couldn’t have done much to stop the three goals.
3. Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden)
Augustinsson scored a rare goal running forward from left-back, and his attacking raids were a handy addition to his typically solid defensive work. He put in some nice crosses, and put the Mexican defence under a bit of pressure on the overlap while staying in good positions when Mexico attacked.
4. Marcus Berg (Sweden)
Berg managed to play a key role with his aerial work in the box and his ability to get into good positions. He has been extraordinarily unlucky not to score in all of Sweden’s three games, and he won the penalty which all but sealed the win for the Swedes.
5. Viktor Claesson (Sweden)
Claesson did plenty of hard work on the right flank, and it was his poorly dealt with long throw which created Sweden’s third goal. He was energetic in attack and defence, and he was involved in most of Sweden’s play thanks to his desire to chase the ball.

Son scores late, but Mexico get the win

Son Heung-min received the ball on the edge of the box in the dying moments of South Korea’s clash against Mexico. Very little had happened since Mexico took a two-goal lead midway through the second half, and the intensity had since disappeared from the contest as both sides went through the motions. Son readied himself to try a shot at the Mexican goal with his lethal left boot. There wasn’t much reason to think South Korea’s star would be successful, having failed to score with eight previous shots, many in better positions than this one. This shot, however, was perfect. Guillermo Ochoa had previously been unbeatable in goal, but this time he had no chance as Son curled the ball past his desperate full-length dive and into the back of the net. Two minutes still remained, and Son’s goal ensured Mexico were set for a nervous finish. Their experience kicked in, and they ran down the little time remaining with no real fuss. For South Korea, it was too little, too late.

Mexico controlled possession early, but they couldn’t find too many chances against a well-organised South Korean defence who were willing to play physical. Hirving Lozano, the goal-scorer in Mexico’s upset win over Germany, came in for particularly rough treatment from right-back Lee Yong, suffering a number of fouls in the opening minutes. It was South Korea, however, who had the better opportunities on the break. Lozano saved Mexico’s blushes when Moon Seon-min and Hwang Hee-chan combined to cross the ball dangerously for Lee Yong, getting in the way of Lee’s murderous swing of the boot to ensure the right-back never connected with the ball. As the game went on, South Korea started to get more chances on the break. Son came particularly close to scoring, with Carlos Salcedo getting back to block the shot and Héctor Moreno blocking the follow-up effort. Son’s third shot in the space of seconds was deflected out for a corner, and when Ki Sung-yueng’s well-placed header was tapped over the bar by Ochoa it looked like the Mexicans were under a bit of pressure. Then Mexico scored.

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Son Heung-min looks on after the final whistle. Son had a big game, taking nine shots and netting a late goal, but it wasn’t enough to get South Korea over the line.

It started with a counter-attack. Mexico’s swift counter-attacks had torn the German defence to shreds in their opening match, but their control over possession and territory had deprived them of the chance to hit South Korea on the break. Now, with South Korea committed to the attack, the Mexicans struck. Kim Min-woo’s error allowed Miguel Layún to collect the ball in acres of space, but his ball across goal was too far away from a sliding Lozano for the left-winger to convert. If South Korea thought that was the end of the danger, however, they were wrong. The previously organised Korean defence was still out of shape when, seconds later, Andrés Guardado’s cross struck centre-back Jang Hyun-soo flush on the arm and Milorad Mažić pointed to the spot. Cho Hyun-woo did his best to draw an error, delaying the taking of the penalty and jumping around as Carlos Vela approached the ball, but Vela made no mistake.

There were few other chances as the half drew to a close, with Layún and Lozano getting into great positions but failing to hit the target and Ochoa coming off his line well to deny Son as he got in behind the Mexican defence. Then, in the second half, Mexico began to find more space, and the chances began to flow more freely. Lozano and Javier Hernández took on (and missed) shots from distance. Guardado found space just inside the box, and forced Cho Hyun-woo into a full-length dive to deny his left-footed strike. Lozano managed to slip in behind once again, but he was denied by Ki’s sliding block. Vela’s shot came perilously close to the top corner, but just missed. Then, with Korea throwing players forward to try and erase the deficit, Mexico struck again.

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Javier Hernández (left) beats Jang Hyun-soo before scoring Mexico’s second goal. The goal gave Mexico a seemingly unassailable lead, although they were challenged when Son Heung-min scored late.

Héctor Herrera started the break by dispossessing Ki, and eventually the ball found Lozano with Mexico’s defence in tatters. Lozano charged down the middle with options on either side, and he eventually chose to pass to the open Hernández on the left. The striker took one touch, watched as Jang slid harmlessly past him in an attempt to block a shot that hadn’t yet come, and slotted it effortlessly past the helpless Cho. Mexico had a two-goal buffer, South Korea were beginning to draw the ire of Mažić with their aggressive challenges, and the game seemed all but over.

Before Son’s very late consolation goal, there was little to suggest that Mexico’s lead would be seriously challenged. A poor back-pass from Rafael Márquez, Mexico’s veteran of five World Cups, put Ochoa under plenty of pressure, but some desperate Mexican defence denied South Korea’s equally desperate attack and the chance fizzled out. It didn’t look like the Taeguk Warriors would receive a better opportunity, and aside from Son’s goal the Mexicans closed the match out comfortably. The win all but seals their passage to the knockout stages, and they will be a dangerous opponent going forward.

Rostov-on-Don – Rostov Arena
South Korea 1 (H M Son 90+3)
Mexico 2 (Vela 26 pen, Hernández 66)
Referee: Milorad Mažić (Srb)
South Korea (4-4-2): H W Cho – Y Lee, H S Jang, Y G Kim, M W Kim (C Hong 84); S M Moon (W Y Jung 77), S J Ju (S W Lee 64), S Y Ki, H C Hwang; J S Lee, H M Son.
Mexico (4-3-3): Ochoa – Álvarez, Salcedo, Moreno, Gallardo; Layún, Herrera, Guardado (Márquez 68); Vela (G dos Santos 77), Hernández, Lozano (J M Corona 71).

Top 5
1. Hirving Lozano (Mexico)
Lozano had a rough time of it as the victim of many Korean fouls, but he still managed to have an impact when he had room to move on the break. He picked up an assist with a well thought-out ball for Hernández, and managed to find space to shoot on a number of occasions. If his shooting had been on song he could have had a big day.
2. Son Heung-min (South Korea)
Son worked very hard all day, and his late goal was a good reward for his efforts. He looked more dangerous playing in a central role, and he created plenty of problems slipping in behind the Mexican defence. He finished the game with nine shots, and on another day he could have scored more than he did.
3. Javier Hernández (Mexico)
Hernández finished with a goal in a strong attacking performance, and he worked hard up front all day. He was always a threat when Mexico found space on the break, and he showed a good turn of pace which allowed him to combine very potently with Lozano, Vela and Layún.
4. Carlos Vela (Mexico)
Vela was in top form in the upset win over Germany, and his form didn’t drop off in Mexico’s second game. His combination with Mexico’s attackers was as dangerous as ever, and he managed to get himself the opening goal of the match with a very well-taken penalty.
5. Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Ochoa continued his brilliant form against the South Koreans, coming tantalisingly close to picking up his second clean sheet of the tournament and looking very solid whenever the ball came his way. He made some good saves, and provided the Mexicans with plenty of confidence with his assured performance.

Mexican blitz brings Germans undone

“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.”

These famous words were spoken by Gary Lineker, and they still ring true to this day. Now expertly coached by Joachim Löw and full of champion players, the Germans entered the World Cup among the favourites. Sure, there were slight questions about their form heading in to their tournament opener against Mexico, but if the first game of the tournament isn’t dedicated to blowing away a few cobwebs then what’s the point of it? They’re Germany, after all.

The signs of German fragility were there from the start, but, surely, they’d be right. The Mexicans started the game with a fast attack that gave Hirving Lozano space to take a shot, and although Jérôme Boateng threw himself in front of Lozano’s effort the danger was apparent. The sides had played less than a minute. From the resultant corner, Marvin Plattenhardt let the ball hit him and roll into a very dangerous area. Manuel Neuer, in his first competitive game since September, threw himself on top of the ball, but the nerves were there. The ball was turned over in their defensive half, and Mexico were looking increasingly dangerous on the break. They were playing well, but the Germans were just working into it. Nothing to see here. They’re Germany, after all.

The Germans were still a threat in attack. Timo Werner’s early shot trailed across the face of goal, and Carlos Salcedo was nearly forced into turning the ball into his own net. Right-back Joshua Kimmich was a constant threat on the right flank. He may have been caught out a few times by the scintillating combination of Carlos Vela, Javier Hernández and the dangerous Lozano, but Germany were still holding up. Would Germany’s defence crack? Surely not before Mexico’s. They’re Germany, after all.

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Hirving Lozano celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game. Lozano showed all of his class and power in finishing the chance after a well-executed breakaway.

Then Germany’s defence cracked. Mats Hummels was out of position, and Hernández had time and space to find Lozano on the left side of the area. One touch beat Mesut Özil, who had worked desperately to get back and help out, and another set him up for the shot. As for the finish, it was lashed into the bottom corner, barely managing to elude Neuer’s desperate dive. But surely it wasn’t time to panic just yet. An early goal was just the motivation Germany needed to start playing their best football. It’d turn around. They’re Germany, after all.

The goal seemed to be the incentive to greater heights the Germans needed. They began to play with renewed vigour, putting the Mexicans on the back foot and forcing Guillermo Ochoa to make an incredible save to tap Toni Kroos’ near-perfect free-kick into the bar. Mexico held their lead for the rest of the first half, but it couldn’t last against Kroos, Müller, Werner, Draxler, Özil and Kimmich. They’re Germany, after all.

The Germans began to dominate proceedings as the second half commenced. Mexico weren’t counter-attacking or pressing like they had been in the first half, and they were sitting ducks against a constant wave of German attack after German attack. There was no one chance that could be pinpointed. Instead, every moment seemed to contain a chance for the Germans to grab the equaliser. Mexico were holding out well, but the Germans would soon get the leveller. They’re Germany, after all.

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Joshua Kimmich runs with the ball during the match. Kimmich provided Germany with an attacking threat from right-back, but Mexico also managed to exploit his aggressive positioning.

Löw tried to turn things around. He gutted his midfield, then his defence, to reinforce his attack. Against Germany’s back two of Boateng and Hummels, Miguel Layún threatened with a couple of raids on the break. At the other end, the chances were piling up. Kimmich’s overhead kick was just wide. Ochoa made save after save. Mario Gómez had a brilliant headed chance, but somehow lifted it over the bar. After a pinball style sequence within the German penalty area, Julian Brandt unleashed a murderous looking strike on the edge of the box, but it cleaved the air just wide of the left goalpost. An equaliser just had to come. They are Germany, right?

And yet, Germany or not, Mexico continued to keep them at bay. Thomas Müller and Hummels gave away unnecessary yellow cards in frustration. Neuer was moved forward in the desperate final moments, and still the Mexicans refused to budge. The final whistle followed shortly afterwards, signalling the end of the match and confirming Mexico’s monumental triumph against the odds. Mexican fans rejoiced in a brilliant victory that will shape the rest of this competition, and the players rushed onto the field to celebrate a confidence-boosting win. For once, the aura of invincibility that has cloaked Germany’s recent performances was shattered. For once, the Germans didn’t win.

Moscow – Luzhniki Stadium
Germany 0
Mexico 1 (Lozano 35)
Referee: Alireza Faghani (Irn)
Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer – Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Plattenhardt (Gómez 79); Khedira (Reus 60), Kroos; Müller, Özil, Draxler; Werner (Brandt 86).
Mexico (4-2-3-1): Ochoa – Salcedo, Ayala, Moreno, Gallardo; Herrera, Guardado (Márquez 73); Layún, Vela (Álvarez 58), Lozano (Jiménez 66); Hernández.

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Javier Hernández (right) and Carlos Vela chase after the ball during Mexico’s upset win. Hernández and Vela played a key role in breaking down Germany’s defence.

Top 5
1. Javier Hernández (Mexico)
Hernández was in excellent form throughout, providing the assist for Mexico’s goal and keeping up his dangerous runs on the break for the entirety of the match. The open spaces provided to him by Germany’s attacking full-backs allowed him to wreak havoc, and his combination with Vela, Lozano and Layún formed a mobile attack that repeatedly picked the German defence apart.
2. Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Mexico’s dynamic attack gave them the lead, but without Ochoa there to deny the Germans it wouldn’t have counted for much. His save to deny Kroos’ brilliant free-kick was top class, and was one of many excellent stops he made on the day. He showed all of his experience in denying the reigning champions, and will take plenty of confidence from his efforts.
3. Toni Kroos (Germany)
Kroos allowed the Germans to control the game with his work in the middle of the park, dictating all of their attacks and often directing traffic to players in dangerous positions. He had Germany’s best chance of the match with his almost flawless free-kick, and his ability to pick out incisive passes made him one of the most dangerous players on the pitch.
4. Hirving Lozano (Mexico)
Lozano scored the only goal of the match, and he exploited the void left by Kimmich’s high positioning to devastating effect. He showed a brilliant first touch and an incredible control over the ball when it fell at his feet, and his finish to pick up the Mexican goal was classy and powerful at the same time. If he keeps this form up he will be a force at this tournament.
5. Carlos Vela (Mexico)
Vela may have been subbed off just before the hour but he was still able to leave an indelible mark on the game. His pace through the middle was a key factor in Mexico’s early counter-attacking success, and he picked out some brilliant passes playing in behind Hernández. His pace and skill created massive problems for the German defence.