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Mexico: New beginnings

Team Assessment Jul 1, 2014
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El Tri have come a long way

Mexico Jul 1, 2014
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Five Aside: Round of 16 records fall

Five Aside Jun 29, 2014
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Mexico's dream dies

The Match Jun 29, 2014
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 Posted by Tom Marshall
Jun 1, 2014

Javier Hernandez in limbo

Mexico must forget a dismal 2013 in order to make it through Group A.

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is still the man for Mexico, at least in one sense of the phrase.

After training in Arlington, Texas, ahead of Saturday's 3-1 victory, the player -- who turned 26 on Sunday -- was by far the most wanted interviewee by the masses of assembled journalists. A member of the Mexican federation chaperoned Chicharito through the awaiting hacks and television crews, being careful to record every word he muttered for future reference against the stories that would come out.

- Highlights: Mexico 3-1 Ecuador
- Video: Leg break ends Montes World Cup hopes

Of course, Hernandez is bright, well-educated and smart enough at the PR game to smile, politely answer the questions, yet not give much away.

On Twitter, Hernandez has well more than three million followers. No other Mexican player has even a third of that number. Especially outside of North America, Chicharito remains the reference point for Mexican football.

Yet he is celebrating his 26th birthday and approaching his second World Cup clouded by uncertainty in his career for both El Tri and Manchester United, just as he is entering his prime.

For Mexico, Hernandez is unlikely to start games at he World Cup as it stands. Manager Miguel Herrera has made strong indications on more than one occasion that Oribe Peralta will lead Mexico's attack and with Giovani Dos Santos, Raul Jimenez and Alan Pulido all in form, Hernandez is certainly on the outside and likely will be used off the bench.

That was unthinkable 18 months ago, but the lack of minutes at Manchester United has combined with Hernandez not scoring in almost a year for the Mexican national team, not since the Confederations Cup.

When he has come off the bench against Israel and Ecuador in the past week, Hernandez has had little effect and looks out of rhythm, despite his exemplary work-rate.

Hernandez is in a similar position as four years ago, when then-coach Javier Aguirre preferred Guillermo Franco to the Manchester United player. This time around it is Peralta blocking Hernandez's starting role.

Over at Old Trafford, there isn't much certainty over Hernandez's future either, nor guarantee of whether he'll stay or go.

"I'm just focused on the national team," is his stock reply to any question regarding Manchester United, who published a story on Sunday written by the player about what the club means to him.

Interestingly, the gushing words about how happy Hernandez was to sign for United were written in the past tense and gave no guarantee of his continued presence at the club next season under Louis Van Gaal.

In the story, Hernandez admitted that people within Old Trafford told him his first season would be about settling in, but the Mexican wrote he wanted to prove himself straight away, which he did.

But that first season has ended up being his best, with 13 Premier League goals and a start in the Champions League final.

He has got progressively less Premier League minutes in each season since, culminating in just six starts in the 38 games last season.

Part of the problem Chicharito has faced is that teams now know his game. He scores goals when he has space behind the defensive line. If teams reduce that space, Hernandez has struggled to impact games and although he has developed his all-round game since leaving Mexico, he remains an out-and-out goal-scorer.

And that magic touch Hernandez seemed to possess when he was scoring goals for fun -- with all parts of the body -- seems to have worn off.

Mexico's most prominent player is in need of a boost. A goal or two against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday or Portugal next Friday would be a good place to start.

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