Hector Herrera quietly drives Mexico while Hirving Lozano grabs the headlines
During the next several days, there will be plenty of lively discussion regarding Mexico winger Hirving Lozano.
How could there not be?
At 22 years of age, the PSV Eindhoven player stunned Germany with a game-winning World Cup goal on Sunday. Thanks to Lozano's strike, El Tri were able to earn a historic 1-0 victory in the nation's tournament opener. Keeping in mind that the Mexican youngster represents the future of the national team -- and is also a target for big European clubs -- there will be no lack of justifiable attention for "Chucky" Lozano.
But what about Hector Herrera? Although Lozano clinched Sunday's man of the match award, is it fair to make a case for the central midfielder as the true game-changer? Should he be given more credit for what Mexico was able to accomplish?
When looking back at the win, no Mexican player finished with more accurate passes or tackles than Herrera. In fact, were it not for his tackle on Sami Khedira in the first half, Lozano's goal would never have been kick-started.
As one of El Tri's two defensive midfielders, few players had more work to do than Herrera. Up against the likes of Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Khedira, the 28-year-old miraculously found a way to shine with his energetic presence in the center of the pitch. During most of opening 45 minutes, Herrera appeared to constantly be a step or two ahead of his European rivals.
With one of the best performances of his career on display, this allowed the likes of Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez and Lozano to take charge with several counters going forward. Along with the rest of the attack, Herrera looked confident through a number of proactive runs that disoriented Germany's midfield.
On paper, this wasn't supposed to happen. Against all odds, the likes of Kroos and Khedira were supposed to be the ones dictating the pace of the game, not Herrera. And yet, thanks to his near-perfect showing, El Tri were able to reap the rewards with a 1-0 lead heading into half-time.
Once the second half rolled around, the midfield leader was able to highlight his versatility as a stable and aggressive figure in front of his back-line. In a deeper role, Herrera frustrated the opposition with his defensive interventions that kept Germany scoreless.
Left with little space to work with in the final third, Germany became desperate through hapless crosses and shots from distance that never found the back of the net, ending the game at a 1-0 win for Mexico.
When looking at the score sheet, it's abundantly clear that Lozano was one of the true heroes from the game. The winger was nothing short of brilliant with his impact that helped gain three points for Mexico.
That said, Herrera doesn't seem to be getting the same praise as the highly talented winger. And if big clubs are looking at Lozano, there's a good chance that they will be looking at El Tri's central midfielder as well.
A recent eye-catching season shouldn't hurt his opportunity for more recognition, either.
In the 2017-18 Primeira Liga campaign, Herrera thrived in Portugal with FC Porto. As the team captain, the Mexican was able to help push the European side to a noteworthy league title. Similar to his role with El Tri, Herrera was vital for his club as a box-to-box midfielder who could shine in a defensive or attack-minded position. Once plagued by inconsistency, the Porto player found a way to regularly flourish in his fifth season with the Portuguese giants.
With one year left on his contract, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if Porto were eager to see what kind of sale could be made in the near future, especially when you consider the organization's known willingness to let go of starters for high-value sales.
Close to the peak of his career, this summer now represents an ideal time for Herrera to make a move to a bigger European squad. With a good World Cup in hand, there should be no shortage of offers for the player who was recently rumored to be a target for Roma.
It seems as though it's only a matter of time before he leaves. After five seasons with Porto, it also appears that Herrera is ready for a new challenge in Europe.
On Sunday, the midfielder proved that he is capable of keeping up with some of the very best players in the world. Although he might not have the pace or goal-scoring ability of someone such as Lozano, Herrera is worthy of more attention from fans and prospective clubs.
Looking ahead to rest of Mexico's journey in Russia 2018, it wouldn't be a shock if the El Tri player begins to steal headlines. At the very least, he can rest easy knowing that he was able to help steal three points from Germany.