World Cup Group F: Heavyweights clash early when Germany meets Mexico
Germany enters the competition as defending World and Confederations Cup champions. Die Mannschaft have been the team to beat in international competitions for some time. Joachim Low has done a tremendous job in maintaining consistency on the international stage.
Mexico made their way into the competition after reaching the semi-finals of the Confederation Cup last year, when they were Gold Cup [CONCACAF] champions. However, their first journey to Russia ended at the hands of their opponent today. The scoreline read 4-1 at the end of 90 minutes.
The Central American giants last met Germany at a FIFA World Cup in 1998. This will be their fourth meeting in the competition. Germany has won every encounter. However, the World Cup is no stranger to upsets. So far in this competition, Australia tested France, Iceland held Argentina, and Denmark stole three points from Peru. The Germans can’t bank the three points yet.
FIFA Ranking: 1st
Jogi Low favours ball controlling play in the midfield that minimises the chance of losing possession. He has mostly used a 4-2-3-1 but also experimented with a 3-4-3, most notably in the Confederations Cup final. In fact, he used the 3-4-3 in the qualification stages of the World Cup, as well.
His squad has incredible depth. Low is spoiled for options.
Timo Werner should start at the top, with Lars Stindl and either Marco Reus or Julian Draxler on the wings. Leon Goretzka, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Sebastian Rudy are the options in midfield. At the back, Matthias Ginter, Niklas Sule and Antonio Rudiger might take their place, flanked by Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich.
They’ll like the front three to press up high with the midfielders responsible to maintain balance and rhythm at the centre of the park. The full backs will offer width in the attack and provide cover when the oppositions attack.
Thomas Muller was Germany’s joint high scorer with Sandro Wagner in the qualifying stages, but Werner remains the wild card. The youngster is only 22 years old but has grown immensely in the last four years to make the jump from the U19s to the senior team.
FIFA Ranking: 15th
El Tri breezed through the CONCACAF Hexagonal, booking their World Cup berth with three games to spare. However, in the friendlies preceding the World Cup, they dropped their momentum, losing to Denmark and Croatia. They can take heart from the fact Germany lost to Austria in their last friendly, as well.
Coach Juan Carlos Osorio was appointed in 2015 and has had plenty of time to shape a team in his mould. Like his counterpart, the Colombian tactician likes to control possession and pressing for recovery once the ball is lost.
Unlike his Group F opponent, Osorio cannot field a backline capable of withstanding continued pressure. Guillermo Ochoa makes a return between the posts, while Carlos Salcedo, Hector Moreno, Edson Alvarez and Miguel Layun are likely to comprise the back four.
Mexico can be expected to turn up in a 4-2-3-1, with Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado playing the double pivot. PSV Eindhoven talisman Hirving Lozano is expected to play alongside Carlos Vela and Oribe Peralta. Record Mexico scorer Javier Hernandez will the playing up top.
Lozano is the wildcard, having taken the Eredivisie by storm in his debut season with PSV Eindhoven.
The first 15-20 minutes might see an end-to-end action, each team looking to assert domination. However, Low has already beaten Mexico convincingly. His midfielders are more than able to control the tempo. Expect Germany to control the possession, while the Mexicans draw back to press them in their own half, seeking to exploit Lozano’s pace on the counter. In the end, I expect the Champions to take the three points from the opening match with a 2-1 scoreline.