Mexico stuns German defending champions as World Cup journey begins

Mexico’s quest for an elusive fifth game at a World Cup got off to a rousing start with a 1-0 upset of Germany on Sunday. Chucky Lozano’s first-half goal was enough to vanquish an uninspired and frustrated German team.

El Tri, as it’s nicknamed, has reached the knockout stages in every World Cup going back to 1994, a remarkable run of six straight. Yet in each one of those Round of 16 games – the fourth match of a tournament – Mexico lost, usually in some newly devastating way. It hopes to finally break into the quarterfinals in Russia, which would match its best-ever performances in 1970 and 1986, both in World Cups played on its home turf.

This tournament feels like something of a prime opportunity for Mexico. For once, a calm has descended over the team under the steady management of Juan Carlos Osorio. And the spine of the team of Chicharito Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera is in its prime, surrounded by a deep supporting case, and complemented by scintillating young attacking talent like Lozano and Tecatito Corona. Even the old war horse Rafa Marquez is still around at 39. The only significant issue is that the preferred central defensive pairing of Diego Reyes and Nestor Araujo is injured.

Tens of thousands of Mexicans descended on Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, sensing that this could finally be Mexico’s tournament. And they were handsomely rewarded for traveling halfway across the world.

Germany is famous for getting off to fast starts at World Cups. In the last four editions, Die Mannschaft has won all its openers by a combined scored of 20-2. The Germans medaled in each of those tournaments and, of course, won the most recent World Cup in 2014, when they beat Argentina in extra time.

Yet this Mexico victory not only broke Germany’s streak, it also marked the third World Cup in a row that the defending champion failed to win its opener. More remarkably still, it was the first time Germany lost a World Cup opener since 1982.

 

It was an open and thrilling game. From the first whistle, the Mexicans looked unencumbered by the daunting task of facing the defending champions and tournament favorites in their first game. Instead, Osorio’s men played their own game, moving the ball around patiently when they had it, and making threatening diagonal runs on searing counterattacks.

Unusually, Jogi Loew’s German side left vast territory unmanned behind its midfield, openly inviting Mexico to rampage through them on the counterattack. And in the very first attack of the game, Vela sent Lozano through just such a vacant space. The 22-year-old winger cut inside but a last-ditch tackle from Jerome Boateng blocked his finish. A signal had been sent though.

 

German chances were rare in the opening phase — only Timo Werner rolled a finish wide in the first half hour or so — and Mexico capitalized on its savvy game plan in the 35th minute. El Tri won the ball in its own half and quickly broke away through Hernandez. He teed up Lozano, who cut inside of Mesut Ozil and beat Manuel Neuer to his near post to send the green masses into raptures.

 

Germany pressed for a quick equalizer, winning a free kick just outside Mexico’s box. But talismanic goalkeeper Memo Ochoa managed to just push Toni Kroos’s curler off his crossbar.

 

Germany’s offensive didn’t last, and before halftime, Mexico had resumed its counter-punching barrage. It sent alarm bells ringing in Germany.

 

Mexico, if anything, probably should have gotten a few more goals. It had so many high-number breakaways that it ought to have converted at least one other one.

 

And that would have made the second half a great deal more comfortable. Because Germany came to dominate as Mexico receded further into its own half. Before the hour, Osorio brought on a defensive midfielder in Edson Alvarez for the exhausted Vela, who had racked up the miles in midfield. It was a signal that Mexico would consolidate and try to hold onto its lead.

But no matter the numbers the Germans committed forward, they never found a breakthrough. Their many shots were either high, wide, deflected or didn’t trouble Ochoa.

 

At the other end, meanwhile, Hernandez had a fairly credible appeal for a penalty when Mats Hummels trampled him on yet another counterattack, but Iranian referee Alireza Faghani was unmoved.

By hook or by crook, Mexico hung onto its sparse lead and claimed a heartening victory, even bringing on Marquez to help lock things down in the final 20 minutes to appear at his fifth World Cup — becoming just the third player ever to do so.

The win also simplifies Mexico’s task significantly. With two more group games against a forgettable South Korea and a very beatable Sweden, winning Group F is now quite realistic. And that could mean avoiding Brazil in the next round, assuming the towering favorites in Group E fare as expected.

That’s exactly the sort of break El Tri needs to finally go on a deep run at a World Cup. But then plenty of opportunity for heartbreak remains.

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KAZAN, RUSSIA - JUNE 24: Yerry Mina of Colombia scores his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group H match between Poland and Colombia at Kazan Arena on June 24, 2018 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Jerome Boateng of Germany brings down Marcus Berg of Sweden to earn his second yellow card and be sent sent off during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Sweden at Fisht Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Ola Toivonen of Sweden scores his team's first goal past Manuel Neuer of Germany during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Sweden at Fisht Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Brazil's forward Gabriel Jesus (R) vies with Costa Rica's midfielder Bryan Ruiz during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 22, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 22: Neymar Jr of Brazil reacts following his sides victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Brazil and Costa Rica at Saint Petersburg Stadium on June 22, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - France's midfielder Blaise Matuidi (L) and Peru's midfielder Edison Flores compete for the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Peru at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
ROSTOV-ON-DON, RUSSIA - JUNE 20: Osama Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia collides with Edinson Cavani of Uruguay during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Uruguay and Saudi Arabia at Rostov Arena on June 20, 2018 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group B - Iran vs Spain - Kazan Arena, Kazan, Russia - June 20, 2018 Iran's Morteza Pouraliganji reacts REUTERS/John Sibley TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 20: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores his team's first goal past Monir El Kajoui during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Morocco at Luzhniki Stadium on June 20, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Stu Forster/REMOTE/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Poland's goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (C) makes a save from Senegal's forward Moussa Konate (R) as Poland's defender Jan Bednarek (L) looks on during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group H football match between Poland and Senegal at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 19, 2018. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group B - Portugal vs Morocco - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 20, 2018 Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Egypt vs Uruguay - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 15, 2018 Egypt's Amr Warda falls on the pitch REUTERS/Darren Staples TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Russia vs Saudi Arabia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 14, 2018 Russia's Aleksandr Golovin (not pictured) scores their fifth goal from a free kick REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Uruguay's forward Luis Suarez eyes the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Egypt and Uruguay at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 15, 2018. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Jose Gimenez of Uruguay scores his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Mohamed Elshenawy of Egypt makes a save during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Egypt vs Uruguay - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 15, 2018 Uruguay's Jose Gimenez scores their first goal REUTERS/Darren Staples TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Egypt vs Uruguay - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 15, 2018 Egypt's Tarek Hamed in action with Uruguay's Giorgian De Arrascaeta REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Aleksandr Golovin of Russia scores his team's fifth goal past Abdullah Al Muaiouf of Saudi Arabia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Jose Gimenez of Uruguay celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Sam Morsy of Egypt and Edinson Cavani of Uruguay battle for possession during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group F - Germany vs Mexico - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 17, 2018 Germany's Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich in action with Mexico's Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez and Jesus Gallardo REUTERS/Christian Hartmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Mexico's forward Javier Hernandez (R) vies for the ball with Germany's defender Jerome Boateng during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Germany and Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 17, 2018. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 17: Hirving Lozano of Mexico celebrates with Jesus Gallardo by sliding on their knees after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Mexico at Luzhniki Stadium on June 17, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Mexico's goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in action during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Germany and Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 17, 2018. (Photo by Antonin THUILLIER / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ANTONIN THUILLIER/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: Enzo Perez of Argentina clears the ball under a challenge by Alfred Finnbogason of Iceland during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by David Ramos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: Emil Hallfredsson of Iceland and Javier Mascherano of Argentina battle for possession during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: General view inside the stadium as Argentina fans celebrate as Serigo Aguero of Argentina celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 18: Harry Kane of England celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between Tunisia and England at Volgograd Arena on June 18, 2018 in Volgograd, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 18: Jose Luis Rodriguez and Eric Davis of Panama clash with Dries Mertens of Belgium during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between Belgium and Panama at Fisht Stadium on June 18, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group H - Colombia vs Japan - Mordovia Arena, Saransk, Russia - June 19, 2018 Japan's Yuto Nagatomo in action with Colombia's Juan Fernando Quintero REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Iran's defender Morteza Pouraliganji reacts after defeat during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Iran and Spain at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 20, 2018. (Photo by Luis Acosta / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Denmark's defender Simon Kjaer (L) and Australia's midfielder Mile Jedinak (2L) eye the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between Denmark and Australia at the Samara Arena in Samara on June 21, 2018. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 21: A Peru fan cries after defeat in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group C match between France and Peru at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 21, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA - JUNE 21: Wilfredo Caballero of Argentina holds his head in his hands as he stands dejected after his mistake leads to a Croatia goal scored by Ante Rebic (not pictured) during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on June 21, 2018 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Argentina's goalkeeper Willy Caballero misses to save a goal by Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric (unseen) during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Argentina and Croatia at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Costa Rica's defender Bryan Oviedo touches Brazil's forward Neymar's head as he cries after scoring a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 22, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Nigeria's midfielder John Obi Mikel (L) vies with Iceland's forward Jon Bodvarsson during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Nigeria and Iceland at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 22, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigeria's forward Ahmed Musa (R) and Nigeria's goalkeeper Francis Uzoho celebrate their victory at the end of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Nigeria and Iceland at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 22, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 22: Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Serbia and Switzerland at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 22, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 22, 2018: Switzerland's Valon Behrami, Granit Xhaka, and Stephan Lichtsteiner (L-R front) celebrate a goal in a First Stage Group E football match between Serbia and Switzerland at Kaliningrad Stadium (Baltika Arena) at FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS (Photo by Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images)
23rd June 2018, Spartak Stadium, Moscow, Russia; FIFA World Cup Football, Group G, Belgium versus Tunisia; Thomas Meunier of Belgium breaks towards goal after beating the offside trap from Tunisia (photo by Ulrik Pedersen/Action Plus via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - South Korea's forward Son Heung-min reacts after scoring their first goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Mexico at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexico's defender Carlos Salcedo (L) jumps against South Korea's forward Hwang Hee-chan (R) during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Mexico at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on June 23, 2018. (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - South Korea's defender Kim Young-gwon (L) and Mexico's forward Javier Hernandez jump for the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Mexico at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on June 23, 2018. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Toni Kroos of Germany scores his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Sweden at Fisht Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Toni Kroos of Germany scores his team's second goal to put his team in front 2-1 during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Sweden at Fisht Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - England's defender John Stones scores a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between England and Panama at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Fans hold banners with the image of Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 25, 2018. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Saudi Arabia's forward Salem Al-Dawsari celebrates scoring his team's winning goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 25, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
SARANSK, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Mehdi Taremi of Iran reacts after missing a chance on goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Iran and Portugal at Mordovia Arena on June 25, 2018 in Saransk, Russia. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
SARANSK, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Karim Ansarifard of Iran celebrates with teammates Vahid Amiri and Majid Hosseini after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Iran and Portugal at Mordovia Arena on June 25, 2018 in Saransk, Russia. (Photo by Maja Hitij - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
SARANSK, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal speaks his mind to Morteza Pouraliganji of Iran during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Iran and Portugal at Mordovia Arena on June 25, 2018 in Saransk, Russia. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Noureddine Amrabat of Morocco battles with Andres Iniesta of Spain during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Spain and Morocco at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Iago Aspas of Spain back heels in past Monir El Kajoui of Morocco to score his sides second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Spain and Morocco at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Argentina's defender Marcos Rojo (lower) celebrates his goal with Argentina's forward Lionel Messi during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Nigeria and Argentina at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 26, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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