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Lozano, Mexico top Germany in thrilling Group F opener

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El Tri’s form wasn’t impressive heading into the World Cup, but they erased a lot of doubt on Sunday.

Mexico knocked off Germany, 1-0, in their Group F opener at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, after Hirving Lozano’s first-half strike.

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Lozano scored his first World Cup goal in the first half, after Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez picked out a great pass to put Mexico in front following a counterattack.

Both goalkeepers were tested early and often on the day, with Mexico particularly coming out to a flying start against the reigning World Cup champions.

The finish came just two minutes prior to Toni Kroos’ brilliant free kick, which was kept out by an equally-incredible save by El Tri goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

As Mexico began to sit back further in the second stanza, the Germans took control of the game, however, the European side struggled in the final third.

Joshua Kimmich was among the threats for the Germans, after nearly scoring an acrobatic bicycle kick off of a low cross from Jerome Boateng.

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Meanwhile, Rafael Marquez entered the match late for Mexico, making him the third player in World Cup history to appear in five tournaments.

El Tri will take on South Korea on June 23 in their second Group F matchup, while Germany meets Sweden that same day.

Mexico spot, hope to exploit weakness in Germany’s defense

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MOSCOW (AP) — Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio has spotted a weakness in Germany’s defense.

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The Colombian said Saturday that Germany’s four-man backline leaves itself open to being hit on the counterattack because it plays too high up the field.

“Any team that tries to play with a back four at the halfway line is exposed with 35 meters in behind them and they are not an exception,” he said a day before his team takes on Germany in Group F at Luzhniki Stadium.

Still, that doesn’t mean Mexico will sit deep and try to play on the counter, Osorio added.

“I believe 100 percent in our players and I think that with our midfielders we can fight for ball possession,” he said. “We will not change the way we play. We have our style in the Mexican national team, and we’re going to match up their game.”

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Mexico can go “head to head” with Germany in the middle of the park, Osorio said. He singled out Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira as particular threats in the Germany lineup, given their ability to distribute the ball.

Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa called on his defenders and midfielders to break up Germany’s rhythm.

“We have to stop their flow. We can’t let them move forward toward the goal,” he said. “They’re also very good at set pieces.”

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One area where Mexico needs to improve is scoring goals after netting just once in its last four friendlies — and that was against Scotland, which hasn’t qualified for the World Cup in the last 20 years.

In response to criticism that Mexico doesn’t score enough, Osorio pointed to his team’s 3-0 friendly defeat of Iceland in March, and Argentina’s 1-1 draw with the same opposition Saturday.

“I really believe that we have enough talent to be able to score against Germany and that’s what we hope for tomorrow,” he said. “We scored three goals against Iceland, and Argentina only scored one.”

Emotional Lopetegui at Real introduction: Spain firing ‘saddest day’

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It’d be fair to assume Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would sympathize with anyone changing managers in a fit of emotion, but the 71-year-old is enraged on behalf of his new coach Julen Lopetegui.

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Madrid introduced Lopetegui on Thursday. The Spanish coach is taking the reins from resigned boss Zinedine Zidane one day after the Spanish national team fired Lopetegui for taking the Real job without informing them.

Yes, the same Spanish team who enters this month’s World Cup as one of the favorites.

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Perez lambasted the Spanish federation, which claimed both Lopetegui and his new club “betrayed” the country, citing Chelsea and Manchester United hiring Antonio Conte and Louis Van Gaal on the eve of major tournaments for their national teams.

And Lopetegui claimed his players reacted well to his telling them he’d leave the national team set-up after the World Cup.

At one point, Lopetegui became emotional in discussing the last 24-48 hours.

From Real Madrid’s web site:

“I believe I’m ready for this adventure and to take the wonderful squad of players we have under my wing. Real Madrid aspires to win everything and I feel part of the family at this club. Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother, but today is the happiest.”

We get it, Julen, and there’s no reason for him to feel shamed. We supposed he could’ve told Real to wait until after the World Cup to speak, but then could miss out on a dream job.

The 51-year-old coached Real Madrid B from 2008-09 before moving onto Spain’s youth set-up, then Porto, then Spain’s senior team.

USMNT 3-0 Bolivia: U.S. kids pummel visiting CONMEBOL side

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The average age of the United States starting eleven on Monday night was under 23 years old. It showed at times, but ultimately it did not matter.

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Walker Zimmerman, Josh Sargent, and Tim Weah all grabbed their first international goals – including debut strikes for the latter two – as the United States clobbered a hapless Bolivia side 3-0. The visitors, also playing a number of young prospects, offered as little competition and opposition as comprehensively possible, with the U.S. pummeling their leaky high line.

The United States looked the more dangerous side in the opening 10 minutes, attacking down the left with a host of brilliant touches to spring white jerseys sprinting down the touchline unmarked. The best early chance came in the 10th minute as Rubio Rubin cut a sparkling through ball from the midline to spring Tim Weah completely unmarked one-on-one with Guillermo Viscarra, but the Bolivian goalkeeper stood strong to make the save and deny the US the opening goal.

The hosts were vicious in the final attacking half, pushing forward to challenge the Bolivian back line on the ball. In the 15th minute, Weston McKennie whiffed on a good shooting chance at the top of the box, and the ensuing cross was blocked hoping to give the U.S. a second chance on net.

[ MORE: 3 Things We Learned from 3-0 win over Bolivia ]

Weah went down appearing to need a substitute, but he came back on and was involved again down the attacking end almost immediately, playing a one-two with Josh Sargent that resulted in a shot for the latter, but it was blocked out of play. The U.S. attack often featured slick one-touch passing at the top of the box, although occasionally there were a few too many passes which allowed the defense to step in and break things up.

On 33 minutes, Weah and Sargent connected together again, but Sargent’s shot was blocked just wide. The pair appeared to be on the same page, able to predict each other’s movements on a number of occasions. The opening goal was coming, and finally it was delivered, albeit by an unlikely source in defender Walker Zimmerman. Off a 38th minute corner, Walker Zimmerman rose higher than his defender Ronald Raldes and powered a strong header into the top-right corner. The goal is the LAFC defender’s first international strike in his third international cap.

McKennie had a half-chance near the penalty spot just two ticks before halftime, but his effort was blocked as he looked to get it through traffic.

[ MORE: Player ratings from 3-0 win over Bolivia ]

After the break, the U.S. continued to hold the bunk of the dangerous possession, but the second goal came from a bad mistake at the back with Bolivia on the ball. With Bolivia making a change between the sticks at halftime, substitute Carlos Lampe made an ill-advised pass attempting to lift the ball over Sargent. The 18-year-old striker used his flexibility to pick the ball out of the air, and finished through the legs of a charging Lampe once he settled in the box. Sargent’s goal makes him the second-youngest debutant goalscorer in U.S. Soccer history, behind just Juan Agudelo in 2011.

The floodgates opened up just before the hour mark as Weah grabbed his own debut goal. Antonee Robinson delivered a cross to the doorstep from the left, and Weah snuck in between the central defenders completely unmarked to poke home their third goal and making it look easy.

As the game wound down, Dave Sarachan handed appearances to Benfica prospect Keaton Parks, Stuttgart winger Julian Green, Reading striker Andrija Novakovich, Stoke City’s Lynden Gooch, Manchester United prospect Matt Olosunde.

These players will wish they were warming up for a World Cup in under a month, but considering the hand they’ve been dealt, so far the future looks quite bright.

Marquez closer to 5th World Cup after making preliminary Mexico squad

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Defender Rafael Marquez could play in a fifth World Cup after he was picked in Mexico’s 28-player preliminary squad on Monday.

Midfielder Andres Guardado, however, one of the three captains, will go through surgery this week and is a doubt for the team.

If 39-year-old Marquez makes the final 23-man list, he will join countryman Antonio Carvajal, Lothar Matthaeus of Germany and Gianluigi Buffon of Italy as the only players to be in five World Cups.

Mexico will announce its final squad on June 4.

“We believe there is room for Rafael to help,” coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. “There is a mental part, in which experience and leadership allows playing in tough moments of world-class matches, and doing it with the same ease, leadership and criteria that only Rafa could.”

Marquez was Mexico’s captain in the last four World Cups and is expected to retire after Russia. He hasn’t played for the national team since the Confederations Cup last year.

Guardado, who shares Mexico’s captaincy when goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa or Marquez is absent, will have surgery on Wednesday. Osorio said he expects to count on the Real Betis player for the World Cup.

Osorio said Erick Gutierrez could be Guardado’s replacement. The Pachuca midfielder did not take part in World Cup qualifying, and did not play in the Confederations Cup either.

“Erick is a natural box-to-box midfielder who is a lefty, like Andres (Guardado). We think he will be his replacement in the future,” Osorio said.

Osorio also said four players have injuries, and that forced him to pick 28. The other players in doubt were Nestor Araujo, Reyes, and siblings Jonathan and Giovani Dos Santos.

“I am not a medical specialist, but if the World Cup began tomorrow those five could not be in it,” then coach said.

A noted absence in the squad was striker Rodolfo Pizarro, who was in great form with local giant Chivas.