Mexico have to like their chances to advance out of the group stage at this year's World Cup. While Group A isn't an easy group—it also includes prohibitive favorites Brazil, along with Croatia and Cameroon—it is one that Mexico are more than capable of emerging from.
But if they are to do so, Javier Hernandez must rediscover the form that made him Mexico's brightest star.
To say that Hernandez has had a rough year for both club and country would be an understatement. For United, he started just six Premier League matches this season (though he was used as a substitute 18 times), scoring a paltry four goals and adding three assists. It was the first time in his four-year career with the club that he failed to score at least 10 league goals.
WhoScored.com gave him a lowly 6.39 average match rating for his league performances.
He didn't fare much better in the Champions League, failing to score in five appearances. He played a bigger part in the FA and Capital One Cups, scoring six goals in seven total showings, but that surely won't be enough to erase the taste of a disappointing season from his mouth.
Not surprisingly, his future with Manchester United is now up in the air. And Mexico manager Miguel Herrera even went so far as to tell Ben Jefferson of the Express, "In the case of Chicharito, I believe it'd be in his interest to leave so he is taken into consideration to play."
Hernandez said the following to Record, via Jefferson:
There is obviously uncertainty [regarding my future], but right now I am fully focused on the national team.
My agent and my staff help me work it all out.
My future could be decided tomorrow, a little after or within three months. (I could) stay there (in Manchester), I really don't know.
It would make sense for Hernandez to leave. At United, he'll likely remain behind Robin van Persie in the pecking order now that Louis van Gaal is the manager. Van Gaal's current gig is managing the Dutch national team, where he favors Van Persie at forward. Why would that change at United?
But indeed, Hernandez should be focused on Mexico at the moment, and not just because the World Cup is two weeks away. After years of being the El Tri's best player, he failed to score a single goal and managed a single assist in the last seven World Cup qualifying matches he appeared in.
Not surprisingly, that coincided with Mexico needing a playoff just to reach the World Cup, and they wouldn't have even gotten into the playoff had the United States not beaten Panama.
So far has Hernandez's star fallen that in Mexico's first two friendlies leading up to the World Cup, he wasn't even in the starting lineup. Maybe a lack of sex during the World Cup will help (his manager is apparently going to try to enforce such a ban). Perhaps cutting out beef will help too.
But the one thing Chicharito really can't afford to cut out of his diet—a steady stream of playing time—has nonetheless been reduced by Herrera. Is Hernandez no longer the man for El Tri?
He did play a part in Mexico's third goal against Israel, mind you. And as with any other striker, it only takes one goal to get on a roll. At some point, Mexico will need him to step up, in a big way, if they are to advance out of a group they should be able to traverse.
Will they call on him for a start? As a super sub?
No matter when the call comes, at his finest, Chicharito is the best player Mexico has. It's time he showed it once again.
If he doesn't, Brazil will be full of heartache for El Tri.