An end-to-end first period set the tone for this entertaining encounter at the Luzhniki Stadium on the banks of the Moskva River in the Russian capital, Moscow. Only a brilliant block from Jérôme Boateng prevented Hirving Lozano giving the Mexicans the lead inside 3 minutes. At the other end, Timo Werner used his blistering pace to outmanoeuvre Héctor Moreno but fired just wide as the match played out at a lightening pace. Mexico looked the more threatening and Manuel Neuer was much the busier of the two keepers, keeping out Héctor Herrera’s long drive before Moreno headed straight at the Bayern stopper from 6 yards out. PSV’s Hirving Lozano continued to cause Joshua Kimmich all kinds of problems down the left-hand side – first cutting inside and laying the ball off for Miguel Layún who blazed his shot over before beating Kimmich on the outside and crossing the ball just out of the reach of Javier Hernández. Mexico piled on the pressure and another incisive counter-attack ended with Chicharito playing in Lozano, who skipped past Mesut Özil (whose defensive effort was atrocious) and clinically fired his low shot past Neuer to put El Tri ahead. It was no more than the Mexicans deserved. An excellent response from the Germans saw some desperate defending in the Mexico box. Moments later Toni Kroos curled a brilliant free-kick around the wall only for Guillermo Ochoa to force the ball onto the bar and away. Frenetic stuff! Mexico could have doubled their lead just before half time as again the Germans were exposed on the counter – Andrés Guardado’s driving run and pass fell at the feet of Carlos Vela who dragged his shot despairingly wide of Neuer’s near post. 17 shots on goal in the first 45 minutes. Showpiece football at its most exciting.
Germany looked more like the side we know they can be after the half time break, moving the ball much quicker, penetrating in-between the lines, and exploting the space out wide. Draxler’s deflected effort wrongfooted Ochoa, who was relieved to see the ball spin dangerous past the outside of the right post. Mexico blew a golden chance to double their lead when Chicharito overhit a square pass to Vela, who would have been one-on-one with Neuer. Marco Reus replaced Sami Khedira to add more attacking prowess, Osorio responding immediately, replacing Vela with the more defensive minded Edson Álvarez. Kimmich’s looping header landed on the roof of the net, much to relief of the buoyant yet nervous Mexican fans. Moments later Werner poked the ball high over the bar from close range as the pressure mounted on Ochoa’s goal. Mexico continued to counter with good measure, however, and the absence of a VAR review of a clumsy challenge by Hummels on Chicharito as he broke into the box was baffling. More heroic Mexican defending, this time from the young substitute Álvarez, thwarted Draxler when he looked certain to equalise.
Entering the final quarter of the game and suddenly it was end-to-end again. Miguel Layún shot over the bar after finding himself one-on-one with Marvin Plattenhardt. The Sevilla midfielder then wasted a glorious opportunity to slip in Jiménez with Mexico holding a 3-on-2 advantage on yet another breakaway. Fantastic play from Jesús Gallardo, who was brilliant down the left hand side all day, released Layún on the right once more but he fired wide across the face of Neuer’s goal. A double substitution from Germany saw both players make an immediate impact: Mario Gómez should have done better with a headed chance from a precise Thomas Müller cross before Julian Brandt connected sweetly with a volley from 25 yards that Ochoa could only watch clip the upright. Loud whistles from the Mexican fans in the stadium as they sensed the most remarkable of victories. Neuer fails to get on the end of a last gasp German corner as Ochoa leaps highest and falls farthest as the referee blows for full-time.
A wonderful display from Mexico and a famous result – they have laid a benchmark for themselves for this tournament. Also worth mentioning a nice moment for Rafael Márquez – El Káiser equals the record of five consecutive World Cup appearances and becomes the first player to captain his side in each of them. A tremendous feat.
Man of the Match: Héctor Herrera (MEX)
Best: Héctor Herrera, Hirving Lozano, Jesús Gallardo, Miguel Layún, Carlos Vela, Guillermo Ochoa (MEX), Joshua Kimmich, Jérôme Boateng, Toni Kroos (GER)