Javier Hernandez Must Improve Play for Mexico to Reach World Cup

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2013

Mar 26, 2013; Mexico City, Mexico; Mexico forward Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) reacts during a World Cup qualifying match against the Untied States at Estadio Azteca. The United States and Mexico played to a 0-0 tie. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It's a little early to suggest that Mexico is in serious trouble in World Cup qualifying after just three hexagonal games, but if Javier Hernandez continues to struggle finishing opportunities like he did on Tuesday evening against the United States, things could get very tense for El Tri.

After three hexagonal games, Mexico has managed just three draws despite being the prohibitive favorites in Concacaf's final qualifying stage. Two of those draws have come at home in the famous Estadio Azteca, Mexico's fortress.

Mexico now trails Panama, Costa Rica, the United States and Honduras on the table. With seven games left in qualifying, Mexico has plenty of time to recover. Still, you can bet there are more than a few nervous Mexican fans right now, with four of the remaining games coming on the road.

But if there is one man who can right the ship, it is El Chicharito.

Hernandez was fantastic for Mexico against Honduras on Friday, scoring two goals to give his side a two-goal cushion. He was subbed in the 64th minute, surely thinking his side would earn an easy three points.

Instead, Honduras came roaring back to tie the game at two apiece. It's obvious that Mexico is exponentially better when Chicharito is on the pitch.

But in Mexico's two home draws in the hexagonal, Hernandez has failed to find the back of the net. 

It's a bit strange, actually, since Hernandez has been so good for both Manchester United and Mexico this season. Combined, he's scored 24 goals and added five assists for club and country this season, and he is one of the most well-rounded young strikers in the world, period.

But the United States defense seemed to frustrate him, mostly positioning themselves well against Chicharito's near-post runs and not shying away from physical contact. Even his best chances—and the ones you would expect him to finish, if we're being honest—were contested. 

Mexico was clearly the more threatening team on the attack throughout, and really torched the United States out wide. But even with Concacaf's top player manning the striker position, El Tri lacked the final touch of class needed to score. 

If Mexico isn't winning games at Azteca, you can bet the other five teams in the hexagonal will see them as vulnerable. And there are no easy games in this group, especially if four of them are on the road. 

Mexico shouldn't be too worried yet. El Tri still has the most talent in Concacaf. But Javier Hernandez must be better than he was against the United States, or the disparity in talent between Mexico and the field shrinks in a big way.


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