Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said his side’s 1-0 victory over defending champions Germany in Moscow was six months in the planning but delivered by a team who played with glory in mind, not worry.
Ranked number one by FIFA, Germany had not lost an opening game at the World Cup since 1982 and thrashed Mexico 4-1 at last summer’s Confederations Cup.
But Osorio, who spent four years as an assistant coach with Manchester City more than a decade ago, knew exactly how he wanted his team to approach this task.
Speaking to reporters after the game, the 57-year-old Colombian said: “I told them to play for the love of winning, not the fear of losing.
“I always tell the players that I’m supposed to be the one who carries all the pressure. They just need to concentrate on the game and when they win it’s their credit and if we lose it’s my fault.
“That’s the way football is and today they really focused on the beautiful game and they beat the world champions.”
But there was so much more to this stunning victory – the first big upset at Russia 2018 – than Osorio’s powers as a motivator: this was a tactical triumph, too.
Mexico played with speed on the wings in the shape of Miguel Layun on the right and the man of the match, Hirving Lozano, on the left. West Ham striker Javier Hernandez was a buzzing nuisance at the spearhead of Mexico’s attack with former Arsenal hope Carlos Vela finding space between Germany’s lines and pulling them apart.
This quartet had already given Germany several warnings before another lightning break saw Lozano step inside Mesut Ozil’s covering challenge and drill a shot past Manuel Neuer in the 35th minute.
The 22-year-old star, who scored 17 goals in 29 games for PSV Eindhoven this season, said “it was the best I’ve scored” and described it “as a dream come true”.
The celebrations were seismic, literally so in Mexico City where the government has claimed the jumping up and down was picked up on earthquake sensors.
“We drew up a plan six months or so ago but due to injuries we had to change some of the protagonists,” revealed Osorio.
“But we chose Hirving as he is our fastest player. We played with great intelligence in the first half and hit them on the counter attack – we actually could have scored earlier and with all respect to Germany we were the better team in the first half.”
Respect or not, Germany coach Joachim Low was not arguing on that point.
“We played very badly in the first half and were not able to impose ourselves,” said Low.
Looking like a man who was still not quite sure what he had just witnessed, Low described his side’s opening 45 minutes as “haphazard”, “ineffective”, “negligent” and “nervous”.
He admitted that his defenders struggled to cope with Mexico’s speed on the break but the real problem was the sloppiness of their attack, a situation which improved in the second half only for their efforts on goal to be “jinxed” or “rushed”.
Low and Germany will not panic, though. They might not be used to losing opening games but they know they have the players to put this right against Sweden and South Korea, the other teams in Group F.
When told by a reporter that three of the last four champions have failed to progress to the knockout stages, Low said: “We will not suffer that fate – we will make it to the next round.”