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Germany vs Mexico: Mesut Özil falls flat

Arsenal’s Mesut Özil fails to impress in Germany’s World Cup opener against Mexico

Germany v Mexico: Group F - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Mexico have stunned reigning champions Germany with a 1-0 win in their first group stage match. Mexico capitalised on opposition errors, while expertly absorbing pressure from countless German attacks, to see out their narrow lead in what is being dubbed as one of Mexico’s best World Cup results.

Mexico’s sheer willingness to attack with speed caught the Germans off guard in the first half, and in the 35th minute, they found the crucial break-through that ultimately decided the game. After breaking down play in Germany’s attacking third, the ball was quickly shifted to Javier Hernandez in the middle, who sought the 22-year-old winger Hirving Lozano, who then effortlessly cut it onto his right foot, sending Mesut Özil the wrong direction, and cooly struck it bottom-left past Manuel Neuer.

It wasn’t the only time Germany were caught out-numbered at the back throughout the game, especially as the centre-backs, Jerome Boateng and Matts Hummels were so willing to go on the offensive. This often caused Özil, who was playing in a centre-attacking midfield role, to be pulled back for defensive duties. This was a terrible tactical oversight from Germany coach Joachim Löw; everyone knows, especially Arsenal fans, that Özil should be assigned to as few defensive duties as possible.

While I think Özil was tactically misused, he was still weak in defending against Lozano. Upon watching the goal over and over, the Gunner was slow to react and struggled to get behind the ball against Lozano’s sheer pace. He was unable to stand his ground, and essentially allowed a free path for the Mexcian to slot it past Neuer.

Other than a neat pass to Thomas Müller in the 57th minute, which was called offside, Özil had no notable contributions, which was disheartening for Arsenal fans. He seemed to play with the same casualness he implements at Arsenal when things don’t go his way. If Löw decides to use Özil more in an attacking capacity, his performances might improve throughout the tournament. The 29-year-old lives in the attacking third, and that’s where he should stay; slotting in tricky passes behind the defence for Timo Werner and the wingers to run onto. However, against Mexico, he was simply missing.