A 'milestone' World Cup win kicks off celebration for Mexico
MOSCOW (AP) — When the final whistle blew, Mexico midfielder Miguel Layun sank to his hands and knees on the turf and was embraced by his shirtless teammate Carlos Salcedo.
If Layun was overwhelmed by his team's 1-0 victory over defending World Cup champion Germany, his coach wasn't. Neither were the sombrero-clad Mexican fans who seemed to be partying nonstop on the streets of Moscow in the days leading up to Sunday's match.
In the second half, they confidently chanted "Mexico, Mexico," and "Ole, Ole, Ole" when their team had the ball, which was far less than half the time as Mexico sat back defending and weathered a furious German comeback bid.
The first half proved decisive. Coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who called it a "milestone" win, said his team executed his game plan to near perfection.
"In the first half we managed to play defensively with a great deal of intelligence. We could have scored much earlier," Osorio said. "With all respect, I think in the first half of the match that we were the superior team."
Mexico is hoping to end a streak of six straight World Cups where it has lost in the round of 16, and in a bid to end that streak Osorio added a mental coach to his staff in 2016. He has tinkered with his lineups constantly. But his plan for attacking Germany by relying on his wingers' speed didn't change.
It was one of those quick-strike artists, Hirving Lozano, who scored the lone goal, taking advantage of the room Germany and right back Joshua Kimmich gave him to run.
"We had drawn up a plan six months back or so. Due to injuries, we had to change some of our protagonists, but we always thought of having two fast players on the wing," Osorio said. "We chose Hirving, who is our fastest player."
Lozano didn't downplay the significance of his goal, a clean strike to beat German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer after he caught Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil moving in the wrong direction.
"It's definitely the best goal I've ever scored so far in my entire life," the 22-year-old Lozano said.
Osorio substituted both Lozano and Carlos Vela in the second half in a bid to protect his advantage.
"We wanted Carlos to give us his all for 60 minutes," Osorio said. "I think that 60 minutes was all we had in our budget today. It saddened me to take him off, but that was always our plan."
Mexico will next face South Korea before concluding group play against Sweden.
"This is a great game. We are going to celebrate it responsibly and we are going to prepare for the next match," Osorio said.
The Mexican fans in Russia and back home won't have to be quite as responsible in their revelry. Meanwhile, Osorio hopes the rest of the world will take note of his players, some of whom he thinks haven't gotten the chances they deserve in European leagues.
"I think this is a milestone for Mexican football. I think now more attention will be paid to Mexican players," Osorio said. "What's most important is for Mexican football to grow."