Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, a striker for Mexico (El Tri), will start Friday’s World Cup match against Cameroon on the bench.
Brash Mexican coach Miguel Herrera has decided to leave the top player out of the starting lineup, instead choosing Villarreal forward Guillermo Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta to start in the attack positions.
Mexico captain Rafael Marquez, a 35-year-old defender who will anchor the team in his fourth World Cup, noted Mexico has players who won an Under-17 world championship and the 2012 Olympic gold medal.
Those victories had sparked talk of a “golden generation” and those players come to the World Cup still believing they can do something special, Marquez said.
“The team has forged one lineup of making history, of doing something important,” Marquez said.
That unity could unravel quickly if Mexico can’t secure a victory and three priceless points ahead of its match on June 17 against host Brazil. If Mexico struggles to find the net, expect loud calls for Hernandez to be on the pitch. Mexican media estimate about 10,000 Mexico fans to be at the Arena das Dunas in Natal.
“Every player in the world wants to be a starter,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to be happy being on the bench, but I want to support my teammates because I want to be a respectful player … I’m tired of hearing I’m a good sub. I prove that whether I have 90 minutes or 15 minutes, I want to do my best.”
Herrera, who took over the national team just seven months ago, is coaching in his first international tournament. He rescued Mexico in qualifying but faces a different pressure now.
Herrera said he’s found a sense of peace on the eve of his biggest match.
“Every training (session) leaves me easy, calm and knowing every player will leave their soul, their last breath, to make Mexican fans happy,” he said.
One writer believes that despite not starting Hernandez “will have a huge World Cup for Mexico.”
“How come he made Miguel Herrera’s team? And most importantly, how it is possible for him to have a massive World Cup?” wrote Karla Villegas Gama of Bleacher Report.
“The answer is easy: Hernandez is the kind of player you don’t find easily. He pours his heart on the pitch. No matter the scenario, you’ll always see him running and trying to make a difference. His mentality is in a different place if you compare it with his teammates. Chicharito has been one of the most active Mexicans in Europe, despite it all, and it shows on the pitch.
“He has matured a lot since 2010. At that time he was the typical goal poacher, he was in the right place at the right time, which was fantastic for the team. But what happened when he couldn’t finish the play? Chicharito’s knack for goal scoring clouded his judgment and instead of passing the ball, he shot every time he felt like, seeking to surprise the keeper. Of course, the threat was lost by then.
“Now Hernandez understands that he will not always score and that others may have a better chance to help the squad.”
Mexico hasn’t done well lately, suffering 1-0 losses in friendlies against Bosnia and Portugal.
After Cameroon, El Tri will play Brazil on June 17 at Estadio Castelao in Forteleza and Croatia on June 23 at Arena Pernambuco in Recife.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.