World Cup 2018: Germany vs Mexico – Lineups, Preview & Prediction
Reigning World Champions Germany face Mexico in Group F’s opening fixture. Will they be able to kickstart their campaign with a win?
16:00 BST, Sunday 17 June, Luzhniki Stadium (Moscow), BBC1
Joachim Low will lead Germany into Russia with his side sitting atop the FIFA World Ranking with the World Cup trophy still in their possession.
After a distinguished – and at times rampant – display in Brazil in 2014, Germany ran out deserved winners courtesy of a late Mario Gotze strike against Argentina at the Maracana.
Four years on and Die Mannschaft are still considered as one of the footballing superpowers, being tipped for glory once again. If they do so, they’ll be only the third side to win the competition for two tournaments in a row.
Mexico come into this fixture as underdogs but will remain undeterred. Both of these sides will be expected to emerge from the group comfortably with South Korea and Sweden the other two opponents.
In their customary style, El Tri qualified comfortably from the CONCACAF region, topping a six-team group that included fellow party-goers Panama and Costa Rica, along with the USA, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago.
Germany also qualified in style, winning all ten matches, conceding only four goals and finishing with a mammoth +39 goal difference.
Last Time Out
Germany 2-1 Saudi Arabia [International Friendly]
The Germans haven’t been in great form of late, and the victory over Saudi Arabia in Leverkusen was their first in six matches.
A 2-1 loss to Austria preceded the narrow victory over the Saudis which followed a 1-1 draw with Spain and a 0-1 loss to Brazil back in March.
Manager Low picked arguably his strongest side for the friendly and so the unconvincing result and performance might trouble him slightly.
Timo Werner opened the scoring after a Marco Reus pass and an own goal from Saudi defender Omar Hawsawi doubled the hosts’ advantage.
Germany took their foot off the gas somewhat in the second half and, after Mohammad Al-Sahlawi’s penalty – which was harshly awarded – was saved, Taisir Al Jassim put the visitors on the scoreboard.
Saudi Arabia could have levelled at the death, with a goalmouth scramble eventually being cleared away.
Denmark 2-0 Mexico [International Friendly]
Preparation for the Mexicans hasn’t been overly convincing, either.
Wales and Scotland both visited the Americas with the Welsh holding the favourites to a 0-0 draw in California. A narrow 1-0 victory over Scotland a few days later got El Tri back on track.
Making a pit stop on their way to Russia in Brondby to face hosts Denmark, an abject display saw the home side take the spoils in a 2-0 win.
Goals from Youssef Poulsen from a Christian Eriksen ball put the Danes ahead before the Tottenham talisman grabbed one of his own to double the score.
Manager Low will probably elect to field the same XI that started the narrow win over Saudi Arabia.
The shock exclusion of Leroy Sane will afford extra game time and opportunities to Julian Draxler and Marco Reus, while Timo Werner will carry the load up front for the champions.
In goal, Manuel Neuer will hope to feature heavily in what may be his last World Cup, although Marc-Andre ter Stegen won’t want to hide in the background.
Captain Andres Guadardo will hope to get his starting spot in the team once more after playing only 45 minutes in the defeat to Denmark, which may see Miguel Layun take up a more defensive role on Sunday.
Carlos Vela and one-to-watch Hirving Lozano are likely to come back into the starting line-up after being dropped to the bench for the previous friendly.
Up front, veteran Oribe Peralta will jostle for the starting berth with Javier Hernandez.
Key Battle: Toni Kroos (Germany) vs Giovani dos Santos (Mexico)
What the German side may lack in overall youth and pace, they make up for with experience and technical ability.
Neither Sami Khedira nor Toni Kroos are young but the duo’s ability to dictate games from all areas of the midfield is the key to them winning games as was the case in 2014.
Pace and speed are missing from the German squad on the whole for this World Cup and the likes of Marco Reus and Julian Draxler may be required to drop a little deeper than normal to help link the midfield and attack.
Giovani dos Santos will be eager to link up with Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano as often as possible, though, and may be forced to pick up extra defensive duties playing a little more centrally.
Shutting down Kroos’ ability to have extra time on the ball to explore his passing range will be key for the Mexican’s and their chances of controlling the middle of the park.
Can Germany do it again?
Before a World Cup, the most obvious question is: ‘Who do you think will win it?’ Germany, along with France and Brazil, are being tipped to lift the trophy once more but can they go all the way once more?
From a technical perspective, Germany has one of the brighter, more gifted midfields, although it is no longer full of youth.
The exclusion of Leroy Sane is still a surprise to the vast majority of football fans; his searing pace and ability to deliver crosses gives the side other options.
Timo Werner, at 22, is the youngest member of the squad, with Khedira 31 and Kroos 28.
This fixture against Mexico has the potential to be a slightly cagey affair, with both sides looking to live up to their billing of comfortably progressing.
Can Mexico go one better?
Mexico’s recent history past the group stages hasn’t been great, often falling at the Round of 16 hurdle.
This game, though, may be the best chance they have had for some time to go deeper in the tournament.
With two winnable games against South Korea and Sweden after the encounter with Germany, the Mexican’s may fancy their chances.
Finishing second in this group throws up a strong possibility of facing Brazil in the Round of 16 stage: a scenario most will want to avoid.
Winning the group, however, will mean they face an, on paper, weaker opponent in the next round. The best way to avoid Brazil…? Beat Germany on Sunday.
Prediction: Germany 2-1 Mexico
Both sides will hopefully go for the win in this one, with both to play arguably the two weaker sides in the group afterwards.
The result in this one may go a long way to deciding which team finishes where at the end of the three rounds.
Germany will be keen to make a mark on the tournament and send a statement of intent out in defence of their crown.
Timo Werner and Hirving Lozano have lots of potential to fulfil and this is the biggest stage for the pair to do it on.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group F in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.