AP Global Soccer Writer
SOCHI, Russia (AP) – Leon Goretzka scored two quick-fire early goals on Thursday as Germany beat Mexico 4-1 to reach the Confederations Cup final.
Exploiting Mexico’s defensive frailties, Joachim Loew’s inexperienced squad was 2-0 up within 10 minutes.
Loew is using the squad to assess his pool of talent, and this one could end the tournament with more silverware for the world champions if it beats Chile on Sunday in St. Petersburg.
All three German scorers in the southern Russian resort of Sochi were players making their tournament debuts. After Goretzka netted in the 6th and 8th minutes, Timo Werner and Amin Younes scored in the second half.
Despite the convincing score line, Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was kept busy. There were 25 shots on goal but he only conceded in the 89th minute when he was beaten by Marco Fabian’s long-range swerving shot.
Mexico will now head to Moscow to play Portugal in the third-place match on Sunday after paying the price for affording Germany too much space to cut through its ragged defense.
“We didn’t have a good start of the game, and they took advantage,” Fabian said. “We have to acknowledge that we dared to play as equals.
“Sometimes adrenaline plays a trick on us. Sometimes we make mistakes that they take advantage of. We have to learn to be effective and take advantage of their mistakes.”
It was a misplaced header by captain Hector Moreno that freed Goretzka to launch the attack that he completed to put Germany in front. Goretzka seized possession around the halfway line, passed to Benjamin Henrichs on the right flank and accelerated to receive the ball back and sweep in a low shot from 20 yards (meters).
Mexico was jolted and had not regrouped when its defense was shredded again inside two minutes. Werner threaded the ball through for Goretzka to slot under the legs of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa at the near post and claim his third goal of the competition.
Rather than being a platform to build on, Germany eased up and squandered the opportunity for a third goal when Werner struck straight at Ochoa.
And soon Ter Stegen was being repeatedly called into action, using his outstretched right leg to clear a shot from Giovani Dos Santos and diving to block the follow-up from Jonathan Dos Santos.
Mexico had an even better chance to pull one back. The ball broke for Javier Hernandez and the striker only had Ter Stegen to beat but the shot was lifted too high.
Raul Jimenez was thwarted by Ter at the start of the second half before Germany extended its lead in the 59th minute. A flowing move saw captain Julian Draxler and Jonas Hector combine to set up the unmarked Werner to pass into an empty net.
Germany looked set for its first clean sheet of the tournament until a quickly-taken free kick left the defense unprepared to close down Fabian, who unleashed the long-range strike that Ter Stegen could not stop.
But Germany still had the final say, with Younes released by Emre Can and striking across the face of goal into the net.
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports
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