Friendlies don’t matter in Germany.
That was the overwhelming response to the criticism of Die Mannschaft’s recent horror-show against Saudi Arabia. Joachim Low’s side struggled to break down Juan Antonio Pizzi’s resolute charges – who were abysmal in the World Cup’s opening fixture against Russia -, limping to a desperate 2-1 victory.
The performance was immaterial, said the soothsayers. Germany swing themselves in a competitive mindset when the time comes. Against Mexico on Saturday, however, it looked like they had forgotten to set their watch.
Juan Carlos Osorio’s effervescent side swarmed to a deserved victory, consigning a World Champion to a first opening-game defeat since 1982.
In a match that had jaws slamming the floor, here are five things we learned.
1 Chucky gets lucky
Hirving 'Chucky' Lozano has had an excoriating year with PSV.
His ability to cut in from the left flank and snap out finishes should not have been a surprise, but the winger found himself in acres of space in behind Joshua Kimmich as he slapped in a winning goal at Manuel Neuer’s near post.
Low’s insistence on pushing both wing-backs forward proved criminal in this game.
Kimmich was nowhere to be seen in the 25th minute, with Mesut Ozil finding himself in the right-back slot as his lacklustre teammates lunged into half-hearted challenges, with Ozil himself getting fooled by Lozano's tricky feet.
2 Ozil marches on
Defeat might make celebrations feel moot, but Mesut Ozil played his 26th consecutive game for Germany at international tournaments on Sunday.
The Arsenal maestro has had a patchy year at club level, but he has been pitch-perfect for the national side, remaining a key part of Low’s technical and speedy set-up.
Unfortunately, he was as anonymous as the rest of the German side against Mexico, struggling for time and space under the suffocating attentions of Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera.
If Ozil has brought his club form to the international stage, then Low needs to keep him out of the side.
3 Where's Werner?
A devastating forward for RB Leipzig, Timo Werner arrived in Russia as one of the favourites to land the Golden Boot.
He was keen to make an impression here, zipping a shot towards Guillermo Ochoa with just three minutes gone.
That’s as good as it got, however.
Werner looked a yard short and a clue light against this packed Mexican defence, despite his sides’ high-shot count. After missing a decent chance inside the box, one he would have buried had this been a Bundesliga game, Low finally hooked him off.
A less than impressive start for the forward.
4 Change is good for Mexico
Juan Carlos Osorio was widely expected to start with Oribe Peralta on Sunday. Instead, the garrulous tinkerer opted for Chicharito in attack, a decision which paid off before long.
The former Manchester United man was intricately involved in the build-up for the winning goal, playing Lozano through against a vacant Germany defence to power home.
It was a wily display from the Mexican, who used all of his nous to frustrate his lumbering opponents. Osorio, given the almost-obsessive regularity of his tactical changes, may yet decide to field a completely different forward line-up in the next game against South Korea.
5 Leroy-al Screwup?
On the face of it, Low’s decision to exclude Leroy Sané from the squad feels completely justified.
The Premier League’s Young Player of the Year has been average at best for his country, registering just one assist and no goals in 12 appearances, whilst not fitting into Low's system as well as Julian Draxler or Marco Reus.
Against Mexico, however, his skills were badly needed. A strangely lethargic German side needed someone with the pace and skill to change the emphasis of this fixture.
He may not have reassured a failing defence, but his directness on the ball certainly would have helped in breaking down Mexico's low block.
Die Mannschaft were timid and ponderous, attributes not associated with the man who tore Premier League defences apart with unnerving regularity this season.
Low knows full-well that Sané’s exclusion could be the noose with which his legacy is hanged; he’ll be hoping, therefore, for a much better performance against Sweden.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group F in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
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