Few things unite mankind as well as football. Few things are as natural in their unification of peoples as the sport and few tournaments can beat the World Cup when it comes to creating moments that will last an eternity.
Yet to play is the reigning champions, Germany. They take on Mexico on Monday in Moscow, an iconic footballing city that has welcomed the world with opening arms.
But, who are the Mexicans? This is a very grand question that Get German Football News’ own Axel Falk will explore. Something a little different from other outlets, this aims to look at their historical foundations and how they got to the present day.
Or perhaps a tad later. Mexico was part of the most famous mass-extinction of all time as the asteroid that supposedly killed the dinosaurs decided to make itself unbearable in the Mexican gulf about 65 million years ago. While this must have been frustrating for the dinosaurs themselves, this was just the beginning of a rather cataclysmic Mexican history. While nothing beat that event in its sheer attributes, Mexico has had its fair share of turbulence and has been conquered more than once.
The Mayans were also rather cataclysmic with their calendar antics. According to some, they said that the world would end on the 21 December 2012. Did it? No. However, blaming the Mayans would be a step too far as they said absolutely nothing about a worldwide event on that day. Their calendar just ended, simple as that.
They were mathematicians, but they were also adept at playing ball sports. Some claim that the first sport was invented by the Mayans and they were probably right, albeit with some minor changes from sports today. This sport is something we’ll return to as the Aztecs took it to another level later in the brutal Mexican history.
The Mayan empire became scattered and divided and then became a few independent kingdoms of sorts. The Olmecs, from the Yucatan-peninsula, were adept at pottery and their language is said to be among the hardest codes to crack. A few other peoples were scattered in the whole Mesoamerican continent, but one quickly rose to prominence- the Mexica-indians.
The Mexica founded a city called Tenochtitlan on the hills of Texcoco, in the direct vicinity of the lake with the same name. These Mexicans have later been called “Aztecs” and are probably the most famous of all Mesoamerican tribes. The Aztecs were brutal warriors, but not savages. Their state was rather like that of the Romans with a good road system and random sacrifices to please the Gods.
Aztecs were the first ones to refine the sport called ullamaliztli, a sport like racquetball where the aim was to keep the ball in play. In racquetball you lose a point when you can’t keep it up anymore. In Tenochtitlan you lost your head. A stark difference between the two.
The downfall of the Aztecs is connected to the rise of the conquistadors.
They fell due to a change in global politics, a change in mentality that made continental conquests pivotal. One can claim that this was a direct consequence of Columbus’ travel to a continent he thought was India, but the issue was much more complex than that.
Hernan Cortes took his soldiers on a ship to Mexico and started their conquest. They had soon reached Tenochtitlan where they were greeted by an arrogant Montezuma II, one of the most famous tribe chieftains of all time. Cortes subjugated the Aztecs and locked Montezuma in a chamber. He then told Montezuma’s Aztecs to fill the room with gold, otherwise Montezuma would die by the sharp edge of a Spanish blade. They filled it, but Montezuma was still killed. Montezuma’s revenge still looms over the Mexicans and one feels that every win in every sport should be attributed to the good Aztec chieftain.
Montezuma was killed in the 16th century. What happened then? Well, ‘Spain, Spain, growth’ are three key terms that can define and comment on the Mexican history since the 16th century quite well. Not much of heavy interest has happened since then, if we’re being honest.
The football nation of Mexico has had a neat history.
Still without a title win, their team has boasted some of the greats. Hugo Sanchez was perhaps one of the best strikers of his generation and Rafa Marquez is a renowned Barcelona-icon. Marquez still plays and is a part of this team; the 2018 World Cup will probably be his last ever act in the green shirt.
The Mexican team that the Germans face is interesting and several good players. Guillermo Ochoa still plays but the backline is revamped since the last World Cup.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s Carlos Salcedo has a key role as a right-back, a position that will be extremely important against Marco Reus’ tricky antics.
In midfield, Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado still guard the middle with the Dos Santos brothers patrolling the attacking areas. Hirving Lozano is a very interesting player that might cause problems for the German backline with his speed, technique and right foot.
His season at PSV has propelled him into the wish lists of elite European clubs and most expect him to shine for the Mexicans. Javier Hernandez will most certainly still play, still a talisman for the Aztecs despite a dire season at West Ham United while Jesus Corona is another quick and tricky winger, whose goal scoring record will be a scare for the Germans before the game.
In the lead-up to the World Cup, the Mexican team was a part of a great scandal as they had fraternised with prostitutes, something that must have affected the Mexican squad in a negative way. However, we must remember that they are professionals and should be able to shut all external doubt out when stepping onto that blessed Moscow pitch.
The Germans have lots of flexibility with Joachim Löw in charge. He has three different choices up top and can use different players for diverse approaches. Mexico is a pressing side that likes to be aggressive and one that likes to press high up the pitch. They also tend to play with a rather high backline, something that might fit Timo Werner well.
Germany may use a gegenpressing system where they try to make the Mexicans press as high up the pitch as possible in order to gain advantage where it matters. We should therefore expect goals, entertainment and good times.
The strength lies not in the physical ability, but in the mental. The Mexicans need to work as a team and do everything for each other and together. A draw is certainly a possibility, this insane sport has produced much worse offerings in its sensational history.
Probable Germany XI: Neuer- Kimmich, Hummels, Boateng, Hector- Kroos, Khedira- Müller, Reus, Draxler – Werner
Probable Mexico XI: Ochoa- Salcedo, Ayala, Moreno, Gallardo- Herrera- Lozano, G. Dos Santos, Guardado, J. Corona- Javier Hernandez
By Axel Falk.