Defending FIFA World Cup winners Germany face Mexico in their opening match of the 2018 edition on Sunday, in Moscow, and Germany legend Lothar Matthäus believes the Central American side can cause problems for Joachim Löw’s team.
Matthäus faced Mexico four times in his illustrious international career which led him to become Germany’s record appearance-maker. On the one occasion they met in a World Cup, Matthäus and Germany came out on top via a penalty shoot-out in 1986. With two wins, one draw and a defeat against Mexico, the former Bayern Munich star is speaking from personal experience on the dangers of facing them.
"I like their style,” Matthäus told bundesliga.com. “Mexico is a footballing country and all their players know exactly what their role is. They can cause a surprise and I'm sure they'll be motivated to give their best at the World Cup, especially against Germany,” Matthäus added.
The CONCACAF giants only lost one game in qualifying - their final fixture against Honduras - to top the overall table, collecting 37 points from 16 games in total. “Mexico maybe aren't a big favourite but they can edge past teams that are favoured over them,” Matthäus said. “On a good day they can win against anybody."
And Mexico have players in their squad that have beaten some Germany stars already this season. Carlos Salcedo and Marco Fabian helped Eintracht Frankfurt to DFB Cup victory against Bayern in May, and are both set to play key roles for Mexico during the tournament in Russia.
Germany will be looking to begin the defence of their title on a high against Mexico, before facing Sweden and South Korea in Group F. In Brazil four years ago Löw’s team did exactly that, beating Portugal 4-0 in their opening group stage match. A Thomas Müller hat-trick was the difference-maker on that day, and Matthäus knows a good start is essential to any hope of tournament success.
"It's a tough first game for both teams at the World Cup,” Matthäus explained. “If you lose you can feel the pressure quickly but if you win then you're happy. We had this at Italia '90. We beat Yugoslavia and everything felt good from that point.”
The last time Germany failed to win their opening game of a World Cup was back in 1986, as West Germany, against Uruguay where they drew 1-1. To find their last opening day defeat at the major tournament you have to go another four years back to 1982, where West Germany were defeated 2-1 by Algeria.
“When you lose you can get dressing room problems, the media might turn on you so it's important to get off to a good start,” Matthäus explained on the need to start with a win. “Germany is a favourite because of the quality of the players, their mentality and their experience.”