June 18, 2018

Horse 2423 - Mexican Golden Eagle Confuses German Imperial Eagle

Germany 0 - Mexico 1
Lozano 34'

There are several things that you hear amateur coaches yelling from the sidelines in district and parish games (basically in the sausages and beer leagues) that Mexico not only ignored but flaunted. "Don't ball watch." Mexico watched the ball. "Don't chase the game." Mexico chased the game. "Mark them on their bootlaces." Mexico didn't mark them on their bootlaces.
If you are coaching an amateur football team and especially a team of youngsters, then the Germany/Mexico match should absolutely positively unequivocally not be in your training video collection. If there is a training manual, then El Tri, tore it up and used it for kitty litter. Germany lost 1-0 because they were utterly confused.

The only goal of the match happened in the 34th minute when Hernandez passed the ball to the left and Lozano cut back inside the defender, took a strike and not even the best flailing of the German goalkeeper Neuer, could hope to stop it. The goal was nothing particularly special other than to say that the context of the game changes everything. For Mexico to put one past the world champions, der Weltmeisters, when they had never beaten Germany ever before, is special. This is what's so important and indeed the reason why Mexico won. Nobody seems to have told them what the significance of this game is.

From the opening whistle, Mexico were not in awe of the machines in white, that were standing in front of them. Nor were they particularly bothered about Germany sitting in their half for virtually the entire game. Mexico's game plan was to let Germany pass the ball incessantly and only diffuse them when they came forward. They then pressed into a comparatively empty field on the counter attack. Mexico's tactics broadly speaking was to play 5-5-0 in defence and then break into 5-3-2 with Lozano and Hernandez on the counter. Germany should have been wise to this because it was seen consistently across the Bundesliga, and usually against the big teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
In other words, Mexico's coaching staff have watched German domestic football because in theory the national side should mostly play in the same way, have seen what has worked against the big clubs and have applied it well. Germany was always technically better at all points on the pitch, but as football is a game which is open to that elusive quality called 'heart', a team of technicians can be beaten from time to time.

We have seen this story repeated throughout this tournament. Spain and Portugal's 3-3 draw started out as a technical bore fest but soon evolved into something glorious as neither side was prepared to let it go. Argentina should have walked over Iceland but not even Lionel Messi could defeat a team of eleven viking warriors who can hold back lava, and are coached by a dentist.

The 2018 World Cup is in my not very well paid opinion, the most entertaining edition of the tournament that I have witnessed and this is the ninth one that I remember. Why? Because this World Cup is actually being played as a football tournament. At least what I've seen so far, the age of anti-fooball seems to have been broken. The big nations can't afford to assume that they have some divine right to win matches any more, the minnows of the tournament have acquired teeth and are eating the big fish from the inside.

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