1. The Mexican National Team Coach is a job that people turn down, because it’s impossible. The most intense, fervent supporters in the world (there was a raging contingent at freaking Brandenberg Gate in Berlin today), and ones who will turn a coach in an instant. Talented players but who to choose? A snakebit past (repeatedly stymied in crushing 2nd round losses since 1990). It’s a job for someone with iguana skin for starters.
Whatever happens the rest of the way (and we’ll see about that), the Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio has won the day, big time. We’d be fools to think this amazing day will grant him the unlimited supported of the nation, because it just doesn’t work that way, and you could even here that in his post-game interview, when he references all the non-believers. Osorio had the guts to play to win, rather than playing not to lose. You have to bring belief into your team for them to play that well, and he did, and they did.
2. That half, oh that half: Osorio went maximal, go-for-broke pressure to start, and it broke Germany again and again through the first half. Mexico had no respect for Germany's imperious confidence in possession. They ran up Germany’s backside, dug the ball off them repeatedly. Germany seemed shocked that any team would not lay off and give them respect. They looked again and again to the referee, who was very loose--and consistent--on that specific ‘from behind’ pressure, and he pushed Kroos out of his face when Kroos didn’t get the call that he wanted. German mentally did not respond. Muller was peak-annoying Muller, all complaints, no ball. Boateng gave the ball away repeatedly and Khedira trudged around without any urgency whatsoever. Herrera, Guardado and the centerbacks were huge. There wasn't anything flukey about it--they simply outplayed them.
Being dispossessed, with their fullbacks up high (you could see the centrality of Kimmich to their attack), they were ripe for exploitation by Vela’s excellent decision-making, Chicharito’s runs, and Chucky’s pace. Fox’s highlight of the goal doesn’t give a close-up shot on the tackle--not sure who made it (let me know, please!), but a brilliant transition pass to Chicharito, whose touch-and-go move wasted Hummels and broke the spine. Move of the match right there. I thought Chucky’s lack of a left might have done them in, but he slid it just a whisker past the sliding defender and Neuer. Eventually the game settled in more like one would expect, and Germany knocked on the door all half, but to no avail. Bedlam ensues.
3. Chicharito: I never understood why he wasn’t rated more highly after a torrid goals-per-minute performance at Man United (Arsenal? Hello???--he would have been perfect at finding the seams for the Gunners a few years ago). There was no certainty that he would start, but he was golden tonight, brilliant creating the goal, and able to find space away from the centerbacks throughout the day. Fantastic performance
4. The subs by Osorio. Vela, whose preternatural calm on the ball provides so much steadiness for El Tri, came off so early. Maybe he was gassed, but that was a move that would have been critiqued all night long had the game gone South. Chucky had to go out--he was clearly running on fumes. And then Marquez--a brilliant historical move (5 times a captain in the World Cup, from way back when he nearly decapitated Cobi Jones), a great nod to the Mexican heart and indeed Rafa was rock solid for 20 minutes. I do think Mexico was playing with fire by dropping so deep into the shell; it worked, but definitely a little bit of luck there too.
5. Huge credit to Ochoa, who was excellent in possession, cooler and more precise than half the German side. Every risk he took paid off. And the full backs really didn't give anything away on flanks. The big names are on offense (as they always are), but this was a confident performance by a back line that hasn't gotten a lot of press.
6. Germany’s got a few issues; no crisis, but they've got some things to think about. A few weeks ago some pundit pointed out that they’ve got everything but a left back, and that was wholly apparent today. If you’re going to play an inverted winger, and you’re going to play teams that will pack it in, you’d best have a left back who can give you something. They don’t, and it hurt today.
7. Which leads us back to the left side. Draxler had a few moments but underperformed. I think the name “Leroy Sane” is bouncing off all over German households at this point, because he has exactly what they needed today. By not being able to get to the line at all on this side, they were terribly lopsided. Brandt brought an immediate jolt--it was he who kept Sane out of the side. Maybe we’ll see more there.
8. Khedira might be history for this Cup. The pressure to bring on Goretzka or Gundogan will be heavy. I expect more Reus going forward. With all that said, no need to panic for Germany. They were cocky and just didn’t adjust to the ref or the passionate ball-hawking of Mexico. They won’t make that mistake again. Sometimes this is exactly what a team needs, to be knocked on their ass. If they do go far in Russia, they can thank Mexico for the mother of all wake ups.
Congratulations to El Tri for a historic win!