'Chucky' nightmare for shaken champs

German captain Manuel Neuer being beaten at the near post by Mexico's Hirving Lozano after 35 minutes. It is the first time Germany have trailed in 563 World Cup minutes, dating back to their 2014 group-stage game against Ghana.
German captain Manuel Neuer being beaten at the near post by Mexico's Hirving Lozano after 35 minutes. It is the first time Germany have trailed in 563 World Cup minutes, dating back to their 2014 group-stage game against Ghana.PHOTO: EPA-EFE, REUTERS
German captain Manuel Neuer being beaten at the near post by Mexico's Hirving Lozano after 35 minutes. It is the first time Germany have trailed in 563 World Cup minutes, dating back to their 2014 group-stage game against Ghana.
German captain Manuel Neuer being beaten at the near post by Mexico's Hirving Lozano after 35 minutes. It is the first time Germany have trailed in 563 World Cup minutes, dating back to their 2014 group-stage game against Ghana.PHOTO: EPA-EFE, REUTERS

Lozano lives up to nickname with winner as Mexico stun clueless and paceless Germany

GROUP F

Germany 0

Mexico 1


Less than 60 seconds after a chorus of "Oles" broke out among the Mexican fans in the 34th minute, cheering on every pass their team made, the underdogs went ahead.

El Tricolor went on another thrilling fast break and pandemonium broke out when crowd favourite Hirving Lozano received Javier Hernandez's pass, skipped past Mesut Ozil, and blasted into Manuel Neuer's net.

"Es Chucky Lozano! (It's Chucky Lozano)," sang the Mexican faithful, in tribute to the 22-year-old PSV Eindhoven winger who bears a striking resemblance to the scary doll from the Child's Play horror movies when he grins.

With his electrifying pace and direct runs, Lozano proved a nightmare for the German defence, who were unusually panicky against the Mexicans' high-pressing game.

A day after Iceland held Argentina 1-1, the World Cup produced another major shock yesterday when world champions Germany suffered the same fate as 2010 champions Spain, who were thrashed 5-1 by the Netherlands in their opening match in Brazil four years ago.

Joachim Low's men looked mediocre in front of 78,011 spectators as they looked bereft of pace and ideas in the Group F opener.

DREAM COME TRUE

Thank God it was a great result for the team and to get this (man of the match award) means a lot to me. It is the best goal I have scored in my life. We all dream of playing in the World Cup.

HIRVING LOZANO , Mexico's match-winner.

Outside the Luzhniki Stadium, the Mexicans had already comfortably won the fancy dress contest with their sombreros, huipil, Aztec warrior costumes and lucha libre masks. The infectious exuberance carried on to the pitch after the first whistle as the central Americans took the game to Germany, whose central defender Jerome Boateng was so confused on one occasion that he spun one round before he regained his bearings.

After exploiting huge swathes of space between the halfway line and the German penalty area on numerous occasions before finding a breakthrough, Mexico showed they could also defend their lead.

  • State Of Play

  • RESULTS

    SATURDAY

    GROUP C

    Peru 0 Denmark 1

    GROUP D

    Croatia 2 Nigeria 0

    YESTERDAY

    GROUP E

    Costa Rica 0 Serbia 1

    Brazil v Switzerland Late kick-off

    GROUP F

    Germany 0 Mexico 1

  • FIXTURES

    TODAY

    GROUP F

    Sweden v South Korea, 7.45pm

    GROUP G

    Belgium v Panama, 10.45pm

    England v Tunisia, tomorrow, 1.45am

    TOMORROW

    GROUP H

    Colombia v Japan, 7.45pm

    Poland v Senegal, 10.45pm

    All matches in Singapore time and live on Singtel TV Ch141 & StarHub Ch222

While they invited Germany to attack so they could hit on the counter, centre-backs Hector Morena and Hugo Ayala held firm.

On the rare occasion Guillermo Ochoa was called into action, the goalkeeper flew across goal to tip Toni Kroos' free kick onto the bar.

Inspiration was nowhere to be found from Germany's starting XI nor their bench.

Timo Werner demonstrated pace but not much else, raumdeuter Thomas Muller could not find space to add to his 10 World Cup goals, and Ozil was closer to his clueless worst in an Arsenal shirt.

Low also looked silly for leaving out Manchester City's Leroy Sane as no other German could top his 14 goals and 17 assists last season, and substitute Mario Gomez failed to make any late impact.

Goalkeeper Neuer's late foray for a corner proved futile as the Mexican fans celebrated as if they had won the tournament.

For now, it seems as if Germany are in danger of being struck by the curse that has befallen recent winners - France (1998), Italy (2006), and Spain (2010) all crashed out in the group stage at the next World Cup. There have also been just two back-to-back winners - Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) - while no world champions have emerged from Group F.

Even if Low and his team are not superstitious, and still fancy themselves to beat Sweden on Saturday and South Korea (June 27), they have to improve in all departments to wake up from this bad dream, and fast.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2018, with the headline ''Chucky' nightmare for shaken champs'. Print Edition | Subscribe