Peralta, dos Santos the chosen duo
It is truly unfortunate. Javier Hernandez may not see much time during the World Cup.
Hernandez, who is by far Mexico's most likeable and professional player. Hernandez, who is adored by fans at every and any Mexico game. Hernandez, who doesn't seem to have an ounce of arrogance in his body. Hernandez, who has yet to score for Mexico since last summer ...
A couple of years ago, it would have seemed nonsensical to even consider placing Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez on the bench. He was slowly becoming a world-class striker at Manchester United and was a serious threat against any team. Just ask Chelsea. Coaches in the Premier League were given weekly headaches with his oddball goals and devastating movement near the goal. It didn't matter how the ball was played into the box, Chicharito would flail himself at the oncoming cross and somehow score. Whether it be his face, the back of his head, or even his backheel, he would find a way, which was a true testament to his tenacious attitude and do-or-die approach on the pitch.
It's almost endearing to see Hernandez, Mexico's symbol, suffer a drop in form, much like the national team. 2011 and 2012 were great years for both Hernandez and Mexico, but 2013 proved to be a huge setback.
Old Trafford and Estadio Azteca also appeared eerily similar in 2013. They had the same story to tell: imposing and daunting fortresses that were then beginning to reveal cracks and fractures. Either one was interchangeable when it came to the news of the losses, just replace the names of the squads and the names of the stadiums. Swansea beats United for the first time in Old Trafford. Mexico's 2-1 loss against Honduras in Azteca is only their second setback at home in World Cup qualifying.
Mexico has clawed their way out of the mud. They appear tattered and tired, but are out of the mess of 2013 that could have been much worse. Hernandez, on the other hand, still has plenty to prove. However, due to his fame, influence and status, he will likely be given at least a minor role on the team -- playing as a late impact player like he so famously has with Manchester United.
He still has the potential to be an important player in the World Cup, but he needs to come out of the gates sprinting as soon as he gets a chance in Brazil. Until then, all eyes will be set on Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos.
- Report: Hernandez to start on bench
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The partnership between the two seems to be the likely starting duo up top for Mexico. Dos Santos is great with the ball and should be able to create plenty of opportunities for Mexico going forward. Peralta is excellent at holding the ball with his back to goal and working well with attacking midfielders. Whether they will work well together is the biggest question.
In fact, that has been the biggest question so far for Mexico going into the World Cup. Which striker set will work the best together?
All five options -- dos Santos, Peralta, Hernandez, Alan Pulido and Raul Jimenez -- are wonderful players, but which two is the perfect combination? The question, at least to me, was still left unanswered after the team's four most recent friendlies. Nobody was able to stand out among their peers and nobody had even scored in the last two games. Afterward, though, I'm still convinced that Peralta should be one of the two chosen.
After the inspiring run of form that Peralta had for Mexico late in 2013, he deserves a start. The main worry with Peralta, however, is his slight absence during the last few friendlies. He had great link-up play, I have to admit that, but he was still unable to score.
Dos Santos and Peralta must recognize the need for goals. With a tenuous grasp of strength in Mexico's defensive line, El Tri will need goals and plenty of them. It's almost a given that teams will score against Mexico, so it will be imperative for El Tri to be at their very best when given their opportunities in attack. Will Peralta and dos Santos be the answer? Or will Hernandez emerge as Mexico's last-minute savior?