Mexico stun champions Germany 1-0 in World Cup opener

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group F - Germany vs Mexico - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 17, 2018 Mexico's players celebrate after the match REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Updated 18 June 2018
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Mexico stun champions Germany 1-0 in World Cup opener

  • Mexico can dream of going better than a consistent record of reaching the last 16 of the last six World Cups and perhaps of improving on the quarter-final they last reached in 1986.
  • The Germans now face Sweden and South Korea and should still qualify from Group F. But their reputation is not what it was.

MOSCOW: Defending champions Germany crashed to defeat in their first game at the World Cup on Sunday as an enterprising Mexico refused to be intimidated and came away 1-0 winners in a thrill-packed Group F opener.
A shaky warm-up campaign had called into question the dominant form the Germans showed in qualifying, but experience and records were on their side, having won every opening game at major tournaments since Joachim Low took over as coach in 2006.
Juan Carlos Osorio’s side had other ideas, however, holding their own against the favorites’ fearsome but slowing midfield and finding space at the back and seeking to end 33 years without a win against Germany. After wasting a handful of first-half chances while living dangerously in their own half, Hirving Lozano’s 35th-minute strike on the break proved just reward.
When German center back Mats Hummels lost possession deep in the Mexican half, Javier Hernandez was released through the middle. He outpaced Jerome Boateng and with a less than perfect pass found Lozano, who controlled the ball, cut inside Mesut Ozil, held off a charging Toni Kroos and slotted coolly past Manuel Neuer.
At the other end, Guillermo Ochoa tipped a blistering Kroos free kick on to the bar minutes later, in what was to prove the Germans’ closest effort of a match in Moscow in which they had more than 60 percent possession but could not make it count.
Germany pressed in the second half but struggled to find the target. Osorio beefed up his defenses to hang on, pulling off Lozano with a quarter of an hour left and sending in 39-year-old Rafael Marquez at the back to become the third man ever to play in five World Cups.
Low threw on Marco Reus in place of Sami Khedira and, with 10 minutes to go, switched left-back Marvin Plattenhardt for a second striker, Mario Gomez, to reinforce Timo Werner, who had failed to make much of a mark in the German spearhead.
Mexico had much of the 80,000 crowd in Luzhniki Stadium on its feet as the Germans left ever greater gaps at the back, and the wastefulness notably of Hernandez on the final pass may reassure future opponents that Mexico, while determined to end a Cinderella reputation, have not replaced Germany as favorites.
Youngster Julian Brandt nearly saved Low’s night after taking over from Werner in the final minutes when he blasted a shot past Ochoa’s right post, and even goalkeeper Neuer came up for a corner in injury time.
But it was not to be.
Mexico can dream of going better than a consistent record of reaching the last 16 of the last six World Cups and perhaps of improving on the quarter-final they last reached in 1986.
The Germans now face Sweden and South Korea and should still qualify from Group F. But their reputation is not what it was.


Pakistan’s Azhar Ali signs for Somerset

Pakistan's Azhar Ali celebrates reaching his century during a match between England and Pakistant on August 4, 2016. (Reuters file)
Updated 17 July 2018
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Pakistan’s Azhar Ali signs for Somerset

  • Azhar is set to make his Somerset debut against Worcestershire later this month

LONDON: Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali has joined Somerset for the remainder of their first-class English County Championship fixtures this season, the southwest club said Monday.

The 33-year-old replaces Australia opener Matt Renshaw, who made three hundreds at 51.30 in the opening rounds of the Championship before breaking a finger against Surrey at Guildford last month.

Azhar is set to make his Somerset debut against Worcestershire later this month.

"The standard of first-class cricket in England is very high and I hope that I can make a contribution to Somerset winning matches," Azhar told his new county's website.

"I have heard good things about Somerset and I was impressed by what I saw at Taunton in 2016 (when Pakistan opened their tour of England that year against the county).

"I am looking forward to joining my new team mates and meeting the Somerset supporters soon."

Azhar struggled during Pakistan's three Tests against Ireland and England earlier this season, making 73 runs in six innings although his lone fifty did come during Pakistan's impressive victory over England at Lord's.

"Finding the right fit at short notice can be challenging, however we are delighted to have secured a player of Azhar Ali's character, pedigree and class for the remaining seven Specsavers County Championship matches," said Somerset's director of cricket, Andy Hurry.

"His experience at the top of the order will prove to be hugely valuable at the business end of the season.

"I have spoken to him several times over the last few weeks and he is very keen to share his knowledge of the game with our aspirational players, so the influence he can have within the changing room will also be vital for us as a club."