As Germany returned to the venue where is began its glorious run to World Cup glory two years ago, it was fitting that the one man present to have featured in that victorious squad secured his side a draw in its opening match of the 2016 Olympics. Matthias Ginter didn't get on the pitch when a German side last traveled to Brazil two years ago, but back in the north-eastern city of Salvador, he headed a late equalizer to clinch a share of the points after a thrilling second half with defending Olympic champion Mexico.
Mexico had upset Brazil in the final at Wembley in 2012 to take gold, and it looked like getting the better of another global soccer power to begin the defense of its title. It was Oribe Peralta, scorer of both goals for Mexico in the final in London and who has returned as one of the three overage players to lead the team at these Olympics, who opened the scoring seven minutes into the second half at Arena Fonte Nova. His fine header into the top corner from a corner swung in from the left gave Mexico the advantage.
But, in contrast to a rather subdued opening 45 minutes, the goal proved to be just the start of a rollercoaster second period. Within six minutes Germany was level. Arsenal's Serge Gnabry, who came on after just 28 minutes following a knock for Leon Goretzka and added a real spark to his side, cut inside from a fine through ball from defender Niklas Sule and found the far corner of the net with the outside of his right foot.
It was not long before Mexico went in front for a second time. Two of its highly rated youngsters from Pachuca played their part, giving a demonstration of the quality that means El Tri should be far from written off in its efforts to win back-to-back gold. The most talked about El Tri youngster, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, produced a fine cross from the left, striker Marco Bueno put a header against the bar and Lozano's club mate Pizarro was able to bundle the ball home.
Still, Mexico just couldn't keep things tight at the other end. And with 12 minutes remaining, Ginter, the 22-year-old from Borussia Dortmund, got ahead of marker Jorge Torres Nilo to head past Alfredo Talavera in the Mexico goal from eight yards.
Mexico coach Raul Gutierrez is unlikely to be happy with his side's failure to hold onto its advantage and particularly its inability to deal with the forward thrusts of Gnabry, who was at the heart of every moment of danger for Germany in the second half. But in a match featuring two of the leading contenders for gold, neither team is likely to be overly disappointed to begin the Rio Olympics with a point.
Mexico will certainly expect to get a first victory under its belt when it takes on minnows Fiji on Sunday. Germany face a tougher task against South Korea later the same day back in Salvador.