Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio pondering the action against Germany. (Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
When he guided the Red Bulls a decade ago, many observers — supporters and even some media — made fun of Juan Carlos Osorio taking notes during the game on sheets of paper.
During his postgame press conferences back at old Giants Stadium, Osorio would refer to those notes when answering questions.
My gut feeling is that today, no one is making fun of the man who has been nicknamed the Professor by some of the El Tri media, at least in the states. He has taken enough notes through the years, probably to write a book or two about soccer strategy, perhaps the soccer version of the movie, The Notebook.
On Sunday, his Mexican team wrote some World Cup history, stunning defending champion Germany in the opening Group F match for both teams at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
How mind-boggling was that result?
Well, Germany is well, Germany, a perennial final four side that has danced around the with World Cup trophy four times (thrice as West Germany, once as Germany). The Germans had won their last four WC openers by an absurd 20-2 margin, beating Saudi Arabia in 2002, 8-0, Costa Rica in 2006, 4-2, Australia in 2010, 4-0, and Portugal in 2014, 4-0.
And, they were playing on European soil, where favored Euro teams should vanquish teams from the other hemisphere.
Which brings us to Mexico.
Osorio’s game plan was perfect. El Tri came out firing from the opening kickoff and his ploy paid off in the 35th minute when Hiriving Lozano scored off a textbook counterattack.
It turned out to be the lone goal of the match as the Mexicans withstood the German’s seemingly continuous pressure in the second half. Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was up to the task, catching, blocking, parrying everything that came his way. And
International soccer amuses me in many ways.
Fans can be so passionate, calling for the head of the coach one day and wanting to anoint him king the next.
On Sunday, they were dancing in the streets in Mexico City and all over the country.
Germany? Plenty of angst in Deutschland.
My guess is that publications such as kicker, Bild, Sport Bild and many major German newspapers and media have much sterner language in their headlines and stories on their respective websites and print editions.
And rightfully so, Germany just doesn’t lose in the group stage.
As defending champs were the favorites not only to win the game, but the group as well. That has been put in serious jeopardy.
But while the Germans’ world came crushing down, the World Cup is hardly over for them (in 2010 Spain lost its opener to Switzerland but bounced back to win its first World Cup). There is plenty of time for them to regroup. Considering their traditional resolve, that is expected.
As for Mexico, it was a stupendous achievement, but as we all know, one game hardly makes a World Cup. The Mexicans have much to do before this competition can be called a success at some level.
Winning Group F would be another step (and perhaps avoiding playing powerhouse Brazil from Group E in the next round).
If the Mexicans fail to emerge from the group, Sunday’s upset won’t be as impressive, and their performance could go down as one of the great disappointments of World Cup history.
Reaching the quarterfinals would be a giant step. Outside of the two times it has hosted the event in 1970 and 1986, the Mexicans hadn’t gone that far in the tournament.
Then, we can assess El Tri.
After enjoying the post-match celebration, I have no doubt that Osorio and his staff will begin preparing for Mexico’s second group stage match against South Korea June 23 (the final group match is set vs. Sweden June 27), utilizing his notes and notebook.
Knowing Juan Carlos Osorio, he probably started five minutes after the final whistle.
Professors never stop thinking or planning ahead.
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