Mexico unprepared for early onslaught as Germany rolls on to Confederations Cup final
- Mexico may have had a Plan B and a Plan C, but neither was enough to overcome a ruthless German side in the Confederations Cup semifinal
Germany jumped out to a quick 2–0 lead and scored another two in the second half, while Marco Fabian's golazo was the only Mexico tally in a thorough 4–1 win for Die Mannschaft in the Confederations Cup semifinal on Thursday.
The result puts Mexico into the competition's third-place game against a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal, while Germany will advance to the final to face Chile. It'll be a rematch of their group-stage meeting, which ended in a 1-1 draw after Lars Stindl answered Alexis Sanchez's early opener.
Here are three thoughts on a one-sided Confederations Cup semifinal.
Boy, that escalated quickly
There was so much hype coming into this game for Mexico, with El Tri particularly eager to erase memories of last year's Copa America semifinal meltdown. Given that objective, the game's opening eight minutes couldn't have gone too much worse for Juan Carlos Osorio & Co. German midfielder Leon Goretzka broke the game wide open with goals in the sixth and eighth minutes before the game had even settled down, scoring his first on well-placed first-time hit from outside the box:
Then netting his second with another well-placed finish from closer range:
Goretzka only needed one touch per goal, but those two put Mexico in a hole from which it couldn't work its way out.
Mexico simply wasn't ready
Osorio talked openly with SI's Grant Wahl before the tournament about how Mexico's 7–0 loss to Chile in last year's Copa America quarterfinals affected his team and his own preparation going into the Confederations Cup.
"I had no Plan B," he said of that 2016 loss. "Now we do, because from that experience we learned so much. Now we have Plan B and even Plan C. We know how to react."
In fairness to Osorio, Mexico did recover remarkably well after Goretzka's opening salvo. The Germans had barely a sniff of the goal for the rest of the first half while Mexico pushed, pushed, and pushed some more for a goal to get back into the game. The problem was, all that pushing rarely led to a clear-cut scoring chance. Time and time again, Mexico would get the ball into dangerous areas, only to dribble into traffic, or away from goal, or search in vain for a passing option that didn't arrive, or try a difficult ball forward that didn't connect. Even Fabian's goal, as impressive as it was, was a completely solo achievement.
For most of the game Mexico looked like a team that may have had a plan, but didn't have enough familiarity between the players on the field to turn that plan into reality.
There may be something to that. Osorio has come in for a lot of criticism during his tenure for his insistence on rotating his squad from match to match. It's a practice he's carried over into the Confederations Cup, and, in fairness, his players seem to be buying into it (plus, he was forced into some decisions with Andres Guardado suspended and Carlos Salcedo and Diego Reyes out injured). Against a team with as much depth, quality and consistency as Germany, though, the flaws of that approach were laid bare. It might not have won El Tri the game, but it might have made a dent.
Germany's B team can win this thing
The greatest trick Jogi Low has pulled as a coach is somehow getting people to believe that the decidedly second-choice Germany squad he picked for this tournament wasn't capable of Germany-like performances. Clearly, it is.
Timo Werner, who scored Germany's third goal of the game, is a quality striker coming off a Champions League-worthy season with RB Leipzig. Goretzka has been a force Schalke's midfield for years now. And those were just the goal-scorers. There's talent all over this team, namely midfield fulcrum Julian Draxler, and Low has the team playing with an understanding and togetherness that's simply frightening to watch in action.
Chile, of course, has plenty of international pedigree of its own. After all, it has lifted major trophies in each of the last two summers, and was able to strike quickly and earn a draw against Germany in the group stage of this competition. But Germany showed against Mexico how ruthless it can be when the stakes are high (or as high as they're going to get in the Confederations Cup, anyway). Sunday's final should be a fascinating showdown.