Why is this even debatable? Will he start every game for Mexico in Russia 2018? Only Juan Carlos Osorio has the answer to that, but if you had start one striker throughout the World Cup, it is definitely Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
1. He is still Mexico’s best goalscoring threat
Numbers don’t lie. He is El Tri’s all-time leading goalscorer and he is only 29-years-old. While past strikers like Luis Hernandez get all the praise in the world, Chicharito’s record-breaking résumé doesn’t appear to receive the appreciation it deserves.
This is the thing about Mexico. You know the phrase “Jugamos como nunca y perdimos como siempre”? As a society, Mexico’s national temperament seems to always feed on this idea of self-sacrifice and a fascination for failure. It is like Bart Simpson’s you tried cake except Mexico’s cake says “No era penal”.
Every once in a while, though, you get somebody like Chicharito. Somebody who breaks paradigms and goes on play in some of the best leagues in the world.
49 goals with Mexico, 78 goals in Europe. What other Mexican striker can match that?
2. This is his World Cup
This is largely comparable to Guillermo Ochoa in 2014. When Memo was an up and coming star at Club America, there were murmurs about the possibility of him starting for Mexico in the 2006 World Cup. Obviously, then manager Ricardo la Volpe opted for experience, and it was Oswaldo Sanchez who was named starter. Then in 2010, Javier Aguirre inexplicably went for Oscar “Conejo” Perez, leaving Memo to watch another World Cup tournament from the bench. Finally in 2014, Memo got his chance and against hosts Brazil put in one of the most memorable performances in Mexico national team history.
Like Memo in 2014, 2018 is Chicharito’s World Cup. Javier scored goals in both of his previous tournament appearances, but in both World Cups, Chicharito was nothing more than a “super sub”. 2018 is building up to be the first World Cup in which Chicharito is the number one option for Juan Carlos Osorio. Hernandez already has two World Cups under his belt, and the third may be the charm.
P.S. He is also two goals shy of becoming Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer at World Cups.
3. He does more than score goals
One of Chicharito’s most underrated traits has always been his ability to make his teammates around him better. Even at Chivas, Chicharito had a knack for making all the right runs and creating space for incoming teammates. Of course, Chicharito is now a more polished striker but that unselfish nature to his game has never been lost.
For example, it is no secret that Chicharito’s hold-up play isn’t exactly the best. Under Juan Carlos Osorio, though, Chicharito has not been afraid to sacrifice his poacher mentality for the good of the team, and contrary to popular belief , one might argue he has done an excellent job, often playing in an unfamiliar position.
Chicharito is also now more of a two-way player. Under former Bayer Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt, Chicharito learned more about how to defend from the front. Chicharito was regularly the catalyst behind Bayer Leverkusen’s pressing, and he has translated some of that to the Mexico national team.
4. If not Chicharito, then who else?
It is arguable Raul Jimenez is the more complete striker of the two, but Jimenez has long struggled to get meaningful playing time with Benfica. Furthermore, the goals just haven't been there for Jimenez on a consistent basis. Oribe Peralta wouldn’t be a bad choice, if we were in 2014 again, and Alan Pulido has zero experience leading the line in a major tournament like this one. Finally, Henry Martin has turned heads in recent weeks, but the wonder with him is if he will even make the squad.
5. He serves as a good complement to Mexico’s current offense
At its most basic form, Mexico are a team with plenty of depth on the wing that likes to play from the back. In addition, El Tri’s greatest strength lies on the amount of talent available in their wide players, with Hirving Lozano, Jesus Manuel “Tecatito” Corona, Carlos Vela and Javier Aquino all strong options for coach Juan Carlos Osorio.
Chicharito might be the biggest name in Mexico’s team sheet, but by no-means is this a team fully-dependent on his goalscoring. Players like Hirving Lozano and Tecatito are more than capable of creating their own moment of brilliance, and this takes away some of the pressure from Chicharito. Moreover, whether it is on the left wing or as striker, the onus is no longer on him to disrupt the opponent’s defense by drifting out wide. Mexico has the option of building through their center backs, and even having Hector Herrera play in a more attacking role. Let’s face it, Chicharito is the right player for this team and the right player for this tournament. Javier Hernandez should start in Russia 2018.