By MARK LORENZANA
In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Germany failed to advance to the knockout stage, thanks — or no thanks, depending on whose perspective it is — in large part to an inspired first game by the Mexican National Team. Mexican winger Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s lone goal back then, against Germany, four years ago, was enough to give El Tri the victory over a seemingly lethargic Die Mannschaft.
Fast forward to Wednesday, Nov. 23, this year’s World Cup, and history seemed to repeat itself — Germany would also end up losing its first game to Japan, 2-1, after squandering a 1-0 lead. In 2018, the Germans bounced back after their opening-game debacle against Mexico by beating Sweden, 2-1, but was booted out by South Korea in the third game. Germany, the defending champion at that time, was forced to contend with an early exit. That was the third consecutive tournament, as well, in which the defending champs were eliminated in the first round, after Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014.
Germany, however, after salvaging a 1-1 draw against Spain on Sunday, Nov. 27, has kept its hopes alive. It seemed as though Die Mannschaft would suffer a second-straight early elimination at the hands of a Spain team that bulldozed through Costa Rica, 7-0, but German forward Niclas Füllkrug had other plans as he sent home a tying goal with just seven minutes to go in the match.
The draw with Spain wasn’t the only good thing that happened to Germany on Sunday, however. With Costa Rica’s 1-0 win against Japan, the Germans need to win against the Central American team in their next game, and hope that Spain — which only needs a draw in its final game — beats Japan to advance to the next round.
Sure, there are a lot of what-ifs in that scenario for Germany. And Mexico’s path to the knockout stage is just as dicey, after settling for a draw against Poland in its opening game, and losing 2-0 to Lionel Messi and Argentina.
First of all, for Mexico to even have a sliver of a chance, it needs to beat Saudi Arabia. If the Mexicans want to qualify outright, however, they must defeat the Saudis by four or more goals. If that doesn’t happen, El Tri must hope for a Poland win over Argentina.
Mexico, in Group C, and Germany, in Group E, both have one point apiece after earning a draw and dropping a match. The current scenarios, though, favor Germany advancing to the knockout stage as opposed to Mexico escaping the group stage. As things stand now, El Tri is in dire straits, and there’s no way to sugarcoat that.
But who knows? Stranger things have happened, especially in the World Cup.
But first things, first: If El Tri is to advance, it has to at least score a goal, something that has eluded the team so far in this tournament.