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Why are the World Cup favourites floundering?

19 June 2018

Defending champions Germany crashed to defeat in their first game at the World Cup on Sunday as an enterprising Mexico refused to be intimidated and came away 1-0 winners in a thrill-packed Group F opener.

A German fan gestures prior to their 2018 World Cup Group F match against Mexico during a public viewing event at the "Fanmeile" area in front of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate on June 17, 2018.

Germany is bidding to become the first team to retain the World Cup title since Brazil in 1962. Time and again before half-time, Germany were lured into cul-de-sacs and then Mexico countered.

Before the tournament, Joachim Low had spoken about the difficulties of retaining a World Cup.

The Germans, branded an "embarrassment" in their home press, should still qualify, with a final group game against South Korea.

That defeat in Sochi was one that hurt their ego.

Seeking defensive reinforcement, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio brought on 39-year-old veteran Rafael Marquez to play in his fifth World Cup. They were desperate to prove to the footballing world that they are one of the top teams in the world.

Osorio survived calls for his head after his team were thrashed 7-0 by Chile at the Copa America Centenario two years ago.

Youngster Julian Brandt almost saved Loew's night after taking over from Werner in the final minutes when he blasted a shot past Ochoa's right post, and even goalkeeper Neuer came up for a corner in injury time.

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However, on Sunday at the Luzhnki Stadium, it was pretty evident that Osorio and Mexico had learnt from those humblings.

More might be made of Sane's absence now, especially as Germany failed to find the back of the net. More reliance was on speed and movement on the counterattack.

"The pressure is all on me so they can go out and enjoy their football", he said. Germany then dominated but when it broke through the Mexican defense, the shooting was poor.

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. Against a razor-sharp El Tri, Germany's creative department spent more time remonstrating with the referee than focusing on denying their opponents' quick transitions. With Kimmich up ahead, it was Ozil who found himself tasked to stop Lozano.

Ten minutes later Kroos went close as well for Germany when he fired a shot from the edge of the box centimetres wide of the post with the keeper beaten.

Removing Saudi Arabia we have not won the last six games.

Lozano's goal sparked Germany into action. Kimmich was fouled just outside the area and Toni Kroos nearly equalised with a sublime curling free-kick that was pushed onto the crossbar by Ochoa. Its a great result and shows our hard work, said Lozano after the match.

On the hour mark, Loew sent Marco Reus on for his major tournament appearance with Germany. The equaliser never came.

Why are the World Cup favourites floundering?