When Hirving Lozano’s shot hit the back of the net in Moscow, the ground literally shook in Mexico, half a world away.
Or so the scientists said.
Lozano’s score was all Mexico needed to beat defending champion Germany 1-0 in its World Cup opener Sunday. And the goal was met with such a raucous roar across the country, the Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Research said at least two sensors in Mexico City recorded an earthquake.
Experts dismissed the account, saying there was no such thing as an artificial earthquake. But the goal certainly set the people of Mexico aquiver.
“This is a day we will never forget. It will pass into the history of Mexico,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, 39, a computer technician. ““I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next games, but today’s game is a historic triumph.”
Despite the midmorning kickoff, tens of thousands of people gathered at iconic Mexico City locales to watch the game and to celebrate what felt like a cathartic moment for a country preparing for national elections amid widespread disquiet about the future as well as dissatisfaction with rising crime, a sagging economy and other problems.
“Thanks to the team for giving us this moment of happiness which we lack so much in this country full of disappointments,” said Juana Sanchez, 41, a homemaker who was among the throngs taking to the streets to celebrate. “Today everyone in Mexico is happy.”
It was only a first-round win, one that doesn’t clinch anything in the month-long competition in Russia. But it puts Mexico in a solid position to move on to the second round.
Mexico’s presidential candidates, in their frenetic final weeks of campaigning ahead of the July 1 election, also celebrated the victory — and tried to use it to win over voters.
Candidates Ricardo Anaya and José Antonio Meade both tweeted photos of themselves, dressed in Mexico’s signature green jerseys, at separate watch parties. And front-runner Andres Manuel López Obrador, famously a baseball fan, delayed an event in Ecatepec, a working-class community just outside of Mexico City, so fans could watch the game on big screens.
In Moscow, where a sold-out Luzhniki Stadium was transformed into a sea of green jerseys, turning the match into a home game for Mexico, fans celebrated deep into the night — then early into the next morning.
Nearly 60,000 World Cup tickets were sold in Mexico and tens of thousands more were sold to Mexican fans in the U.S. All those supporters made their presence felt Sunday and that made an impression on the team.
“Since the anthem started, everybody knew who the home team was,” said goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who made nine saves to shut out the defending champions. “The people are always here with us, in the good times and the bad times. They do everything possible to be with us, they pay any price to be with the team and we try to do things for ourselves, but we want people to trust us.“
Coach Juan Carlos Osorio, the target of such withering criticism in Mexico that he declined a contract extension last winter, was also moved.
“I want to dedicate this great result to all the Mexican fans who made the journey out here,” he said. “And those who don’t support us yet, we will work to convince them to join us.”
More than four hours after the game, dozens of those fans, most in Mexican jerseys, some with flags slung over their shoulders or tied around their necks, milled about in the open space between the stadium and the Sportivnaya metro station.
“It was crazy. It’s a historic win for us,” said Dario Jurado, a 35-year copywriter from Mexico City, who didn’t want to leave. “We cannot ask for a better result.”
A couple of dozen yards away, Ignacio Lopez, a 45-year-old telecommunications worker from Mexico City, didn’t want the night to end, either. Dressed in a national team jersey and the silver mask of lucha libre star Rey Mysterio, he stared at the subway station but wasn’t ready to enter.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” he slurred in Spanish. “It’s a historic moment. There’s nothing to compare it to. We beat the world champion.”
Lopez said he spent more than $5,000 to come to Moscow for the World Cup, “but it was worth every penny.”
Inside the stations, the sound of the national team’s unofficial theme song, “Cielito Lindo,” echoed off tiled walls.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores.
A few stops up the line, another group of fans piled into a subway car, dancing and singing in Spanish as the other passengers stared straight ahead. It’s safe to say that in Russia, where smiles are about as easy to find as Hillary Clinton campaign buttons, it was the first spontaneous celebration on a subway car in some time.
“I’m so drunk,” Frank Morones of Mexico City confessed with a smile. “This was a really big surprise. All the work we went through to get here was worth it for this game.”
Baxter reported from Moscow and Linthicum and special correspondent Cecilia Sanchez from Mexico City. Staff writer Patrick McDonnell contributed from Oaxaca.