Mexico won't soon forget El Tri's World Cup victory over Germany
MOSCOW -- The ball flowed, and time stood still.
Sunday, June 17, 2018: A day that will not be easily forgotten by Mexican football.
On this remarkable day, the Mexican national team finally found its competitive spirit at exactly the right moment: in its World Cup opener against the defending champions, when the whole world was watching it take on one of the strongest teams in modern football. This was the day Mexico decided to play well and to confront its destiny head-on. And El Tri won because it was better than Germany, in all aspects of the game. It did not win thanks to a mistake or as a result of a series of events; it won because of the way it played.
For 45 minutes, Mexico played awe-inspiring football -- it was perhaps its best-ever World Cup performance. It kept the pressure on in Germany's half: lost the ball, waited patiently, defended with discipline, and produced on-target shots that left Manuel Neuer in disarray. Some players, such as Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Miguel Layun, Hector Herrera and Hirving "Chucky" Lozano can be called out for their individual performances, but Mexico triumphed because of its collective style of play and good tactical decisions by its highly criticized manager Juan Carlos Osorio.
But right now, one wonders what went wrong with the defending champions. It seems to me that the German side was dominated and dismantled by Mexico's approach. Joachim Low's team seemed confused and disjointed. Their powerful midfielders (Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira) appeared defenseless, and their personnel up front (Thomas Muller and Julian Draxler) just added to the confusion. The Germans found themselves in the dark on a sultry summer's evening in the Luzhniki Stadium.
Mexican football has dreamed endlessly about the type of display delivered on Sunday in Moscow: the chance to use its best qualities to compete and to contest, despite its shortcomings and flaws, on a world stage against a football superpower. At present, Mexico is not on the same level as Germany, but it has taken a step closer. And if it continues along this path, someday -- in the near future -- it could be there.
In the world of football, it is not very wise to try to predict the future. Mexico still needs to take on South Korea and Sweden in the group stage. But it seems Mexico's fate rests in its own hands, and that it could avoid an encounter with Brazil in the round of 16 if it manages to finish top of its group. But one never knows in football, and even more so with a Mexican team that has grown accustomed to being inconsistent. There are ample examples in our football history where we have seen our team go from the sublime to the ridiculous.
But for now, the only date that matters is June 17, 2018: the day Mexico outplayed the world champions; the day the ball flowed and time stood still.
David Faitelson is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.