MOSCOW — It is a gigantic night for Mexican football, and the Luzhniki exploded in the colors of the Mexican flag when the final whistle signaled the first major upset of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Among the players on the Mexico squad that helped write history was LAFC forward Carlos Vela, who started on right in Mexico’s 4-3-3 formation.
While Hirving Lozano bossed Bayern München right back Joshua Kimmich at will on the left flank of Mexico’s attack, Vela was mostly taken out of the game by surprise inclusion Marvin Plattenhardt. Plattenhardt, a defender for Hertha Berlin, made the starting XI at the last moment as regular starter Jonas Hector fell sick just before kickoff.
Plattenhardt had been considered the weak link in a side containing top players in any position. But Mexico head coach Juan Osorio’s match plan was not about overloading one flank or the other.
“We have watched Germany’s wingbacks for some time, and we knew that they have struggled there. As a result, we emphasize the wing. That was our tactic, to hit Germany while sitting deep, exploring their lack of ability to play out wide in the back,” Osorio explained after the match.
So while LAFC forward Vela did not shine the same way as his counterpart on the left, his tactical position on the field was still significant. Both wingers sat deep, doubling up with Javier Hernandez, who would move over from one flank to another to support either Vela or Lozano on either side.
It was a brilliant tactical plan that worked like magic against a Germany side that seemed sluggish when moving back. Both Vela (58’) and Lozano (66’) were taken off in the second half to make a tactical adjustment to Germany bringing on Marco Reus (60’), Mario Gomez (79’) and Julian Brandt (86’).
In fairness at this point, neither winger were needed anymore. Mexico sat deep and contained a German side that struggled to get behind El Tri’s defensive line. Furthermore, Mexico was also a bit lucky with Timo Werner (64’ and 67’), Toni Kroos (76’) and Julian Brandt (88’) missing the net by a whisker in the second half.
The missed chance by Brandt marked the start of the celebrations with at least half of the announced 78,000 spectators dancing and singing in anticipation. When the final whistle went, El Tri supporters could no longer be contained.
The other MLS players on Mexico’s roster, brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos, remained on the bench for the match.
Pouring out of the stands, fans were seen chanting, dancing and singing all around the concourse and within the perimeter of the stadium. Today, Mexico made history. And while much of the talk will be about hero “Chucky” Lozano, LAFC superstar, Vela also made a significant contribution to this match.