While fans sing for Hirving Lozano or other El Tri attackers, Javier Hernandez continues to put in excellent showings for El Tri
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez did it again.
Mexico needed an insurance goal, and he was there. He finished off an Hirving Lozano counter-attack in the 66th minute to put away a 2-1 victory against South Korea in the teams’ second group match of the World Cup.
The silky finish after sending a defender diving by with a feint marked the 50th goal in his El Tri career, putting more distance between him and the country’s second all-time leading scorer. He will go down as one of Mexico’s greats and matches like the one he had against Korea and the one he had against Germany earlier this tournament – along with his showings against against Croatia in 2014 and against France in 2010 – will have him remembered as one of the country’s legends.
The 30-year-old should have another World Cup in him, and don’t be surprised if he scores at that one too. Of course, it looks like he’ll have at least two more matches at this World Cup with El Tri’s victory all but good enough to lock up a spot in the next round . He needs just one more to become Mexico’s all-time top scorer at World Cups – this from a player who many said had scored too many of his goals in meaningless matches.
“There aren’t words to express it. The reality has exceeded our dreams, but you have to imagine badass things and continue on,” he said with a laugh while speaking Spanish at a news conference. “I’ve got a lot of desire to achieve important things for this country. It’s the most beautiful thing and I dream of it, I hope for it, but we should be level-headed and calm. I put this individual achievement in the service of the team. I wouldn’t be here without them or all the coaching staffs we’ve had, the teammates, my family. This staff, we’re with them to the death and they’re with us to the death as well. We’re there for them and they’re there for us.
“I’m really happy, obviously, I’m going to enjoy it but tomorrow turn the page and think about Sweden and try to get three points and win the group.”
The second group match wasn’t meaningless. It would’ve been very easy for El Tri to overlook Korea after opening the tournament with a win over reigning champion Germany. Instead, Mexico came out at a hot and humid Rostov Arena and looked to take the game to their Asian rivals.
There were moments during which Mexico looked vulnerable, with Son Heung-min stretching the Mexican defense. For the most part, though, Mexico did exactly what it wanted to do, playing on the wings and either using its speed outside the exploit the advantage against the Koreans or switching the field and having Lozano or Layun put in a cross or beat their man.
To close out the game, Chicharito played on the right wing, generally making himself a nuisance as El Tri killed off the match. He was involved in the original game plan too. Just like against Germany, Chicharito dropped deep to receive passes from the center backs and with his back to the goal either turned and started an attack or set up another Mexico player to start a run forward.
A frequent knock against the striker is that he’s a poacher, that he only scores in the box. While it’s true his goal came inside the area, he did so much more for Mexico in each of the first two games. He’s become a more complete player than he ever was at Manchester United or Real Madrid. The frustration at not getting to show that this season at West Ham has been evident. The joy he feels at playing for his country has too, with the enormous smile coming over his face as the pro-Mexico crowds begin to sing the national anthem.
It’s who he is – a passionate player who has never been afraid of showing his emotions, even when that’s not popular. After the match he wrapped Andres Guardado in a huge embrace, high fived an assistant and blew a kiss into the stands. His reminder was complete. Lozano, Jesus Corona and even Chicharito’s contemporary Carlos Vela are in excellent form and are exciting players, but Chicharito still has so much to offer El Tri.
Not that it’s a competition. Lozano is enjoying working with a player and was happy to connect with him Saturday after Chicharito set him up in the previous game.
“Thankfully, we’re linking up really well and understanding each other well, so you can see it on the field,” Lozano said. “I think that happens step by step, day by day on the training ground. Thankfully, it worked out today.”
He continued: “He’s a great player, a great person. He deserves everything he’s achieved.”
The thousands of Mexicans traveling with the team around Russia are signing “El Chucky Lozano” at every opportunity, and there’s no doubt he’s a talented player. Mexican fans will have to put a few of their old songs back into rotation as well. “Chi-cha-ro!’ Chi-cha-ro!”