Mexicos Little Pea seeks World Cup lift

11 May 2014 01:16

Four years after leaving one World Cup finals as a new football hero, Mexican striker Javier Hernandez returns to the sport's greatest stage desperate to reignite a spluttering career.

From the moment Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson plucked Hernandez from the obscurity of FC Guadalajara just before the 2010 finals started in South Africa, the diminutive striker enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame.

Emboldened by his move to United, Hernandez -- known as Chicharito (Little Pea) because he is only 1.75 metres (5 feet 9 inches) tall -- announced himself to the global audience with two memorable goals.

For the first, he came off the bench to score Mexico's opening goal in a shock 2-0 win over France. In doing so emulated his grandfather Tomas Balcazar, who scored against France in the 1954 World Cup.

Hernandez, whose father played for Mexico at the 1986 World Cup finals, then scored against Argentina in the last 16, though Mexico were beaten.

The World Cup success carried over to life with United as he quickly became one of the most clinical forwards in the top-flight and helped his new team win the Premier League in his first season.

But the fairytale did not last. Hernandez, struggling to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League, has come crashing back down to earth over the last 18 months.

Chicharito has put a brave face on his hard times. "Keep going, keep moving, keep learning, but the most important thing. keep smiling!!!" he told his 3.2 million Twitter followers in February.

And for all his travails in England, with 35 goals in 57 appearances for Mexico, Hernandez is already the joint third highest goal-scorer in his country's history and remains key to their hopes of a strong showing in Brazil.

When Hernandez suffered a knee injury after colliding with Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama in a friendly international in March, it was initially feared the damage may be severe enough to rule him out of the World Cup.

But to the relief of Mexico manager Miguel Herrera, Hernandez was back in action just 17 days after the friendly as he featured in United's victory at West Ham.

The fact that appearance lasted only 13 minutes as a second half substitute underlined the problem Hernandez now has -- a crucial lack of game-time due to his troubles at United.

It is hardly ideal that Mexico's bid to qualify from a daunting World Cup Group A featuring Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon will be spearheaded by a player with so little regular first-team action.

Despite United's problems this season, Hernandez was unable to get into the team, scoring just nine goals, with four coming in the League Cup, and has started only six times in the Premier League.

After scoring 20 goals in his breakout first season in Manchester, Hernandez is now behind Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Adnan Januzaj in the battle for forward line places.

Such is Hernandez's decline that the club are reportedly willing to sell him, with Aston Villa leading a list of suitors believed to also include Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Tottenham.

Hernandez is giving serious thought to leaving and earlier in the season he told Mexican television channel Deportes Telemundo: "I strive for that (to start more games).

"I know that my performance on the pitch will allow me to achieve that goal someday either here in Manchester or elsewhere for any other club."

But if he wants to restore his reputation as one of the premier predators in Europe's football, a strong World Cup is essential.

Source: AFP