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COUNTDOWN 2: Chicarito forgets club woes for Mexico

COUNTDOWN 2: Chicarito forgets club woes for Mexico
June 11
10:40 2014

A stuttering season for club but always showing up with better performances for his country, Javier Hernandez will be happy to be on his way to another international tournament where he is expected to be the protagonist for North American giants, Mexico.

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Chicharito, as he is fondly called for his ability to steal in the box unnoticed, broke into the national team as a 20-year-old and has never looked back since then. After debuting in 2009, he was on the plane to South Africa 2010, where he was adjudged the quickest player of the tournament, reaching a top speed of 32.15 km/h. He managed to score twice — one each against the mighty France and Argentina.

He was named most valuable player at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2011, and scored seven goals at the tournament. The 25-year-old Guadalajara-born striker has already notched 35 goals for El Tri, and is on course to break the all-time highest goal scorer record currently held by nodding Maestro, Jared Borgetti, who ended his career on 46 goals. Although he has endured a season to forget with Manchester United, mostly warming the bench and managing a paltry 4 goals in 24 appearances, he scored 5 goals in World Cup qualifiers, as Mexico scrapped into the World Cup. He will be needed in full flight to achieve the Mexican dream.

Mexico fans expected their team to sail through World Cup qualifiers easily after winning the football event of the London Olympics, but they had a reverse experience.

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El Tri struggled to the extent that they were within whiskers of missing Brazil 2014 altogether, winning only two of their 10 games ­— including a harrowing defeat at home to Honduras at their Estadio Azteca fortress  — and they had the USA to thank for their last-day win over Panama to make the play-offs.

After trying four coaches during qualifiers, the Mexican Federation finally settled for 45-year-old Miguel Herrera, who had just guided Club America to the Mexican league title. He made radical changes and executed the play-off games with only Mexico-based players. This gamble paid off with a 9-3 aggregate win over New Zealand.

Mexico are going into their 15th World Cup and a soccer crazy nation expects their team to always deliver excellent performances. This, however, has not always been the case, the North American nation’s best performances last coming in 1970 and 1986 when they were hosts. They have always fallen at the round-of-16 ever since — Argentina halting them in both 2006 and 2010 — but perhaps playing on the American continent will bring them a better outcome.

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Herrera can call on the mercurial Giovanni dos Santos; wing wizards Andrés Guardado and Hector Herrera; Oribe Peralta; and veteran defenders Rafael Marquez, Carlos Salcido, Francisco Rodríguez and reliable shot stopper, Guillermo Ochoa in his quest to give to the fans the kind of success they’ve been craving for years.

Strength

It will be hard to read what the new coach plans for the team, but Mexico can count on the creativity of dos Santos and the goal scoring machine that is Chicharito to be central to his plans. The team also scores late in games, and can utilise the wings to good effect with the right tactics.

Weakness

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The team lacks in confidence and did not win a single point in games where they went behind — a mental block that must be dissolved before the tournament proper. Also, starting the veterans that litter the defence and midfield should be reconsidered, as younger and glory-hungrier players could be more useful while the veterans provide experience from the bench.

Last line

Mexico ranks as Brazil’s bogey team in international games. However, it is a different statistic in the World Cup, where Brazil has won all three encounters. El Tri will look to defy this and silence the vociferous home crowd when they meet at the group stage of the World Cup.

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