Leon Goretzka, Germany rout Mexico in Confederations Cup semifinal
SOCHI, Russia -- Germany defeated Mexico 4-1 in Fisht Stadium on Thursday to advance to the final of the Confederations Cup against Chile on Sunday.
Here are three points from the match:
1. Germany cruise past toothless Mexico
While Mexico fell behind in its last four games and came back to rescue a result on each occasion, once Germany's Leon Goretzka netted twice within the first eight minutes Thursday, you never really got the feeling that the outcome of this game was in doubt.
Germany manager Joachim Lowe said ahead of the match that he envisioned his team advancing to St. Petersburg for Sunday's Confederations Cup final. and his team showed a similar self-assurance on the field. If you didn't know that this Germany team isn't at full strength and has been together for only a matter of weeks, you would never have guessed.
Goretzka's quick-fire goals allowed the German team to sit back, wait for Mexico. and then pounce with quick and incisive counters. Timo Werner really should have made it 3-0 in the 19th minute when he went clean through on goal, but Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa pulled off a sharp save.
In front of 37,923 fans in Sochi, Mexico had 60 percent of the possession and twice as many shots as their opponents, but the Germans controlled the game and looked far more threatening in attack. Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio stressed before the match that Germany may be young, but their players get opportunities in the Bundesliga and with youth national teams, a level of experience and composure that shone through.
Julian Draxler's creativity carved open Mexico's defense on the hour mark. He released Jonas Hector, who squared for Werner to tap in for a 3-0 Germany lead after Mexico had rallied in the 15 minutes before and after half-time.
A superb Marco Fabian strike late on salvaged some pride for Mexico and cut their deficit to 3-1, but Amin Younes restored Germany's three-goal lead, forging the comfortable 4-1 final. It is a frightening prospect for other nations to think that this German national team won't be the one we see at Russia 2018 -- that there is a better, more experienced version out there resting up for the summer.
2. Goretzka's finishing the difference
Goretzka scored only five goals in 30 Bundesliga games last season, but he now has three in the Confederations Cup. The 22-year-old is at the top of the tournament's scoring chart and has looked like one of the best young players in the eight-team competition.
The way the Schalke midfielder nonchalantly swept in Germany's opening goal after six minutes was the mark of a player with a very bright future. The run into the box to collect Benjamin Henrichs' pass was timed to perfection, and Goretzka barely looked up before flicking the ball into the far corner of keeper Guillermo Ochoa's goal. There wasn't even much of a back-lift.
Goretzka made a similar late run for Germany's second goal just two minutes later. This version of Die Mannschaft may not have played together much before, but the chemistry was evident as Werner filtered a perfectly weighted pass through for Goretzka to latch onto and find the same far corner of the goal.
Tactics, formations, planning processes and lineups obviously all factor into the result of any game, but brilliant finishing such as that of Goretzka on Thursday can make all the difference.
3. Mexico again exit major tournament at knockout stage
For the second consecutive summer, Mexico has exited a major tournament after getting thrashed at the first stage of the knockout rounds. Mexico lost to Chile 7-0 in the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario last summer, and now has suffered this 4-1 rout against Germany in the Confed semifinal. Pile in the fact that El Tri has gone out in the round of 16 at the last five World Cups, and Mexico's problem becomes obvious: When Mexico faces the world elite, it struggles.
This inability is perhaps the central issue with the Mexican national team. Osorio is well-aware of it and is working to bridge the gap to elite nations, but Thursday's game showed it will clearly be a long process.
Osorio had some major lineup decisions to make ahead of the match against Germany because Carlos Salcedo and Diego Reyes picked up injuries in the Confederations Cup. Both likely would have started, leaving the Colombian with a dilemma.
Osorio chose to go with Oswaldo Alanis at left-back. The Chivas player is more natural in the center of the defense and Germany targeted him relentlessly, finding reward with the first two goals.
Within the first two minutes, Mexico had lost the ball twice playing out of the back and was down 2-0 after eight minutes. There was again a nervousness, especially in defense. Unlike Portugal, New Zealand and Russia, all of whom had their chances to go up two goals against El Tri, Germany didn't need a second invitation and was able to swat away Mexico.
And so it's back to the drawing board for Osorio, who has one year to come up with solutions to the questions posed by Thursday's defeat.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.