Germany v Mexico preview: World Cup holders start Group F campaign
By Onogwu Muhammed
World Cup holders Germany will be looking to put a rocky build-up behind them when they face Mexico in their opening Group F game in the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday (4pm BST).
Joachim Low's side have only won once since qualifying for the tournament with maximum points, edging past Saudi Arabia 2-1 in their final warm-up game.
There has also been controversy as Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan were jeered by Germany fans in recent friendlies after posing for a photograph alongside Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Germany are trying to become the first team in 56 years to retain the World Cup.
"We need the greed, the fire," said defender Jerome Boateng. "It's part of what makes things go off with a bang sometimes in training and on the playing pitch. We will have to fight for every inch.
"I think we're known as a team that starts well."
Germany beat Mexico 4-1 on the way to winning the Confederations Cup in Russia last year.
Like Germany, Mexico qualified with ease for a seventh consecutive World Cup as they secured their place with three matches to spare.
They have lost to Denmark and Croatia in their warm-up matches and drawn against Wales, however, manager Juan Carlos Osorio used the games to try a variety of players.
Sweden and South Korea meet in the other Group F clash on Monday.
Boateng is expected to be fit to start after returning from a groin injury.
His Bayern Munich team-mate Manuel Neuer could also start in goal after making his comeback from eight months out in Germany's 2-1 defeat to Austria on June 2.
Mexico have no injury concerns.
This will be the fourth World Cup encounter between Germany and Mexico. 'Die Mannschaft' are unbeaten, with two wins (6-0 in the first group stage in 1978; 2-1 in the round of 16 in 1998) and one draw (0-0 in the 1986 quarter-finals, followed by a 4-1 victory on penalties).
Mexico have only won one of their 11 games against Germany (D5 L5), it was in June 1985 in Mexico City. Their only previous encounter on Russian soil was in last year's Confederations Cup - Germany won 4-1 in the semi-finals.
Germany have won their opening game in each of the last seven World Cups, including scoring 20 goals in their last four openers (8 v Saudi Arabia in 2002, 4 v Costa Rica in 2006, 4 v Australia in 2010, 4 v Portugal in 2014).
Mexico are unbeaten in their last five World Cup opening games (W4 D1), their last defeat dating back to 1994 against Norway (0-1).
Germany have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in each of the last four editions, the longest current streak of any team. In fact, they have topped their group in every single World Cup since 1990.
Mexico have been knocked out in the round of 16 in each of the last six World Cups; they have lost only two of their last 17 group games (W8 D7).