World Cup One to Watch: Hirving Lozano – Mexico
Having torn it up in the Eredivisie in the last season, Hirving Lozano will look to make an impact on the world stage this summer.
World Cups can do wonders for your reputation. Just ask Gilberto Silva, whose dominance in Korea and Japan earned him a move to Arsenal back in 2002.
For every member of the Invincibles, however, there is always a José Kléberson. Silva’s international teammate made his own sashay to the Premier League but the Brazilian is remembered far less fondly after a stumbling two-year spell at Old Trafford.
Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano might be hyped but there is nothing hollow about PSV’s devastating winger.
In his first season in European football, the 22-year-old tore the Eredivisie apart. Winning Player of the Month at the first time of asking, the Mexican proceeded to wring a whopping eight assists and 17 goals from a devastating campaign.
The Netherlands’ labouring defences just couldn’t keep up with him and Philip Cocu relied heavily on his consistency as PSV romped to the domestic title.
Lozano has been a regular for Mexico for two years, having been granted a debut by Juan Carlos Osorio for a friendly against Senegal in February 2016.
He scored a solitary goal at the Confederations Cup a year later but was far more threatening in World Cup qualifying, top scoring ahead of Chicharito and Carlos Vela.
Nabbing vital strikes against both Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF rounds, Lozano prospered as El Tri laboured to make a funeral out of what should have been a walk in the park.
Playing on the left as a wide forward, Lozano has marked himself as the first name on the team sheet for Mexico. The World Cup offers the diminutive Mexican a chance to make a name for himself on the world stage.
Ostensibly a winger, Lozano’s pace and technique mean he is lethal across any of the offensive positions. He has scored from the right, the middle and the left throughout this season, striking terror into Dutch defences with his fearless and aggressive runs from deep.
His first touch is exceptional but it doesn’t even need to be with his fabulous acceleration. Lozano is capable of making runs off the shoulder, but he is equally comfortable receiving the ball on the wing too, from whence he has a tendency to sprint inside before lashing a devilish finish. Quite simply, there is nothing he can’t do.
That’s not to say he is without weaknesses. Lozano measures at just 5 foot 10, meaning he offers precious little threat in the air.
He is temperamental too, having served a three-match ban in February for lashing out at Heerenveen defender Lucas Woudenberg. His crossing could be better, but his alacrity in front of goal makes deliveries less of an issue.
Lozano is yet to face top-class opposition on a consistent basis. Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels will offer a fearsome deterrent in the fixture against Germany.
Sweden, too, made it to Russia on the back of their frugal defensive organisation and their blanket defence will seek to choke Lozano’s space.
South Korea might be the weakest team in Group F but Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan have the capacity to annihilate Mexico’s defence before it takes a breath.
Lozano hasn’t had to perform in these circumstances yet. Starring in the Dutch league might be one thing, but doing it on the grandest stage of all is something else entirely.
It remains to be seen whether he’s up for the task.
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