World Cup Bayern-watch. Russia 2018, opening group stage matches

A week into the World Cup, it is time for the first weekly catch-up. A chance to look at how the Bayern boys are doing in Russia. The biggest story was Germany’s shock defeat against Mexico, but elsewhere it was not a particularly great week for the red legionnaires.

Die Mannschaft undone by Mexico

We start with Germany, who had expected to get things off to a solid start against Mexico in Moscow. The performance was anything but solid however, with Jogi Löw’s team run ragged by a well-drilled and dynamic opponent.

With a display that was both sloppy and complacent, the reigning champions could count themselves lucky. It could have been far worse, with Mexico as profligate in front of goal as they were dangerous on the counterattack. In the end, Hirving Lozano’s 35th minute strike was enough.

There were five FC Bayern starters. Manuel Neuer, his recovery complete, led the team out. Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels returned to the centre of the defence, with Joshua Kimmich at right-back. Thomas Müller was in his customary position on the right of the midfield.

It was not a great day. While Neuer could do nothing about the Mexican goal, Boateng and Hummels were given a torrid time, often left to fend for themselves with huge swathes of space in front of them. Kimmich was good going forward, but his defensive display is something he will want to forget quickly. As for Müller, the entire day was pretty forgettable.

James off the bench

If Germany’s start was horrible, James Rodríguez and Colombia would have a stinker against Japan in Saransk.

Against a team they had expected to beat easily, the partly-fit skipper could only watch from the bench. The start was shocking. After just three minutes, Los Cafeteros were a goal and a man down. A blatant handball from Carlos Sánchez leaving Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa (could it get any worse?) to slot in the resulting penalty.

The ten men did manage to equalise, but the imbalance slowly began to take its toll. James took to the field just short of the hour mark, but there was little he could do to shift the momentum.

The Japanese retook the lead, and there was no way back. If just to rub things in for James, he was booked four minutes from time.

The missing Mr. Lewandowski

Not long after Colombia had been beaten by Japan, Robert Lewandowski’s Poland went down by the same score to unfancied Senegal.

If anything, the performance was even worse. The Poles, one of the dark horses coming into the tournament, were completely off the boil. Lewandowski had been in hot form in the warmups, but was virtually nonexistent in what was a listless Polish performance.

Once has to wonder whether Robert Lewandowski was elsewhere. Who was the man wearing the white number nine shirt? Was it the striker’s alter ego Emil?

A Thiago Cionek own goal gave Senegal the lead (yes, his name is Thiago), before a defensive disaster gifted the Africans a second. Right on the hour, midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak and ‘keeper Wojciech Szczęsny produced a comedy of errors. Krychowiak did score at the other end to give the Poles a sniff, but it was a case of too little, too late.

Tolisso and Co. take the points

One could argue that Corentin Tolisso’s France were just as flabby against Australia, but they did take the three points.

The Bayern man made a start in what was a tough encounter, and lucky win, for Les Bleus. The first use of the Video Assistant Referee at the tournament saw a penalty decision go in favour of the French, with Antoine Griezmann slotting home. The Socceroos equalised with a penalty of their own just four minutes later, and the match seemed to be meandering to a draw.

Cue a freak own goal from Aziz Behich to restore the French lead, just four minutes from time.

Tolisso had a fairly quiet match, but was booked for a cynical challenge after 76 minutes. He was hauled off by French coach Didier Deschamps just two minutes later.

Thaigo’s Spain held in six-goal thriller

Thiago Alcântara would get some match time in Spain’s opening encounter with Iberian neighbours Portugal. Replacing old master Andrés Iniesta with 20 minutes remaining, his team were 3-2 in front, having twice come back from a goal down.

The Spaniards had somehow managed to regroup following the dismissal of coach Julen Lopategui, but Thiago and his team mates could do nothing to stop Cristiano Ronaldo two minutes from time as Portugal snatched a share of the spoils.

Bayern had managed to keep a leash on Ronaldo in the Champions League, but a stunning free-kick from the Portuguese talisman completed a memorable hat-trick.

The rest

There was no pitch time for Niklas Süle or Sebastian Rudy. However, following Germany’s poor show and the possible need for team changes, they will be putting extra effort in training ahead of next weekend’s meeting with Sweden.

You can keep up to date with Germany’s World Cup progress on my other site, Schwarz und Weiss.