CHICAGO -- A more confident, fully-firing Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez would've netted at least one of the two good chances he had for Mexico on Tuesday night against Bosnia-Herzegovina. If he had, it would've been the difference between what turned out to be a shaky 1-0 defeat -- the first of coach Miguel Herrera's time in charge of El Tri -- and a draw after a below-par performance.
But this isn't the Hernandez of 18 months ago, who had the scoring knack. The work rate is still there, as is the same youthful zest in his eyes when he talks to the press, but in short, he is a player lacking confidence and timing. In the 23rd minute, Hernandez was played through from a defense-splitting ball by Miguel Layun, but the Manchester United striker miscued after controlling the ball well and struck the post when he should've scored.
Two minutes later, the former Chivas player failed to control another ball over the defence, instead falling to the ground in search of a penalty. Hernandez is now highly unlikely to start games at the World Cup, given Giovani dos Santos coming off the back of a good season with Villarreal, Alan Pulido making a goal-scoring start to his international career and Jimenez being a favorite of Herrera.
On top of that, Oribe Peralta already has the main striker's spot locked down. "[Chicharito] gave everything, but we know he lacks rhythm coming in," Herrera said in his press conference, summing up Hernandez's performance and implying that the striker's lack of minutes with Manchester United this past season affected him at the national team level.
It is, of course, slightly unfair to judge a player on one performance. And Hernandez wasn't getting down about the 80 minutes he was on the field, admitting in interview after the match that chances were squandered. But that doesn't change the fact that he's now very much an impact sub at best for Mexico at the World Cup.
While Chicharito remained calm about his performance, Herrera was enraged about Bosnia-Herzegovina giving out one lineup to the Mexican federation and the media and then fielding another, including star striker Edin Dzeko, who was not originally listed in his team's starting XI.
"We hope that the same dirty tricks don't happen in the World Cup," he said. "You can only change a player when he is injured."
They were unfortunate and needless words from Herrera, who was visibly angry in his press conference. He even accused Bosnia-Herzegovina of going against FIFA's fair play mandate. His legs were constantly shaking, seemingly in frustration. The manager added that he liked the way his side shifted from the usual 5-3-2 to a 4-4-2 diamond formation after 15 minutes, and then on to a 4-3-3, and said all could be options in Brazil.
"We made some changes to try out different situations that could arise," he tweeted postgame. "We move forward, focused on the next game against Portugal."
Aside from what everyone already suspected of the out-of-form Chicharito, Herrera learned that Hector Herrera is becoming an increasingly key figure for El Tri.
"Herrera had an extraordinary game," the former Club America coach said. "He does exactly what is asked of him."
The Porto midfielder was consistently the player who caused most problems for Bosnia-Herzegovina, and he solidified his starting spot for the World Cup, if it was even in doubt. Goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera's nervousness surely canceled out any possibility that he starts in Brazil, while Jose Juan Vazquez's performances caused reason for concern (as did Carlos Pena's, once again).
Friday's final tune-up against Portugal now becomes even more important. Herrera has said he'll play as near to what he considers Mexico's best team as possible. With confidence brittle and time to find solutions running out, Mexico can't afford another slip-up like Tuesday at Soldier Field.