Germany came into Russia 2018 tipped as favorites by many, looking to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.
But on Sunday night, the reigning champions became the latest big team to fall victim to a shock result, with an opening game defeat to Mexico.
Tens of thousands of green-shirted El Tricolor fans had descended on Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in the hope of seeing something special.
The next 90-minutes did not disappoint. Mexico, the perennial underachievers, who so often arrive at big tournaments on a wave of optimism only to crash out at the first hurdle, began the game with a bang.
Undaunted by their opposition, Mexico adopted a thrilling, attack-minded approach, continually threatening the German defense. But it was striker Hirving Lozano who broke the stalemate on 35 minutes, in a goal that would prove the difference between the two sides.
Germany, at times clearly overwhelmed by the fluidity of the Mexican forward line during the opening exchanges, eventually regrouped, subjecting their opponents to a barrage of late pressure.
But it was too little, too late. Mexico held on for a famous win, prompting wild, delirious celebratory scenes at the final whistle.
Such was the euphoria back home in Mexico, that seismic sensors in Mexico City detected what was reported to be a mini “artificial” earthquake, caused by what the country’s Institute of Geologic and Atmospheric Investigations claimed was “possible mass jumping,” after Lozano’s goal.
Regardless of the real cause of the quake, the emotion was evident, as crowds of people, many openly weeping, took to the streets to celebrate the historic win.
A less than perfect build-up
The reigning champions have endured a rocky build-up to Russia 2018.
Despite a plethora of depth and talent — a second string German team won the Confederations Cup last year — the German side arrived in Moscow Sunday on the back of a poor run of form.
Die Mannschaft have won just once in their past four games, that being a narrow 2-1 home win against Saudi Arabia. In addition, two members of the squad have come under the spotlight for being photographed alongside Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan, both of Turkish descent, met Erdogan last month with Reuters reporting that both were criticized by German politicians for doing so.
The pair assured manager Joachim Low they were not trying to make a political point, but Gundogan was booed when he appeared as a substitute against Saudi Arabia.
While Ozil started against Mexico in Moscow, Gundogan was an unused substitute.
Yet there were no audible signs of discontent from the sizable German contingent in the crowd.
Mexico, conversely, have been riding the crest of a wave coming into Russia 2018.
El Tri topped CONCACAF qualifying for the first time since 1998 and the feel good factor continued last week as they were awarded the right to co-host the 2026 World Cup alongside the US and Canada.
Those two contrasting moods seemed evident in opening exchanges, as Germany appeared somewhat sluggish and labored.
Mexico, meanwhile, were lively and full of energy and the front three of Javier Hernandez, Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela combined early on to force Jerome Boateng into a last-ditch tackle.
The resulting corner caused panic in the Germany box, before a grateful Manuel Neuer pounced on the ball.
Germany appeared rattled but that early foray forward seemed to spark them into life, as exciting young striker Timo Werner immediately went up the other end and flashed a shot across Guillermo Ochoa’s goal.
But any ideas that Germany would waltz to three points in Moscow were quickly quashed.
Mexico are no World Cup novices, only Brazil and today’s opponents have advanced from the group stages more often in the past nine tournaments.
It was soon evident the first half was following a certain pattern: Germany attacking, Mexico hitting their opponents on the counter-attack..
But Mexico were creating by far the better opportunities and coach Juan Carlos Osorio was soon awarded for his flawless tactical plan.
It was on another break that Hernandez came short and played a one-two with Carlos Vela, before playing the ball through to the marauding Lozano.
The PSV forward cut inside Ozil and beat Neuer at this near post to send the huge swathes of green shirts in the stadium wild.
Osorio was certainly living up to his pre-tournament promise.
“We will play good football, attractive football, you will see a great match and feel good about your team,” he told reporters before the match.
The second half continued in much the same vein, with Mexico wasting chance after chance on the break to put the game to bed, first through Hernandez’s wasteful pass and then through Miguel Layun’s two wayward strikes.
Osorio became more cautious, taking off Vela and Lozano for Raul Jimenez and Edson Alvarez, before introducing Mexico legend Rafa Marquez, who became only the third player to play at five World Cups and the first in history to captain a country in five.
His calming influence was crucial, marshaling the space in front of Mexico’s back four as wave after wave of German attacks descended on the area.
Low brought on striker Mario Gomez in a final attempt to rescue a point but the Stuttgart forward missed a late header and El Tri held on for their first ever win over Germany in a World Cup.