Despite being in form for Champions League-chasing Villarreal, Dos Santos' place in the Mexico squad is far from assured.
For most international sides outside the group of elite nations, an experienced forward in his prime in a La Liga team fighting for a Champions League spot would be an automatic choice in the national team.
That isn’t the case with Mexico coach Miguel Herrera when it comes to Giovani Dos Santos, who misses Wednesday’s El Tri game in Atlanta with a calf injury.
Herrera has stressed time and time again that the Nigeria match will be vital in assessing how the Europe-based players fit into his system, and the injury news is a blow to Dos Santos’ World Cup chances.
A strong run of form from Mexico’s other strikers could push Dos Santos out of the starting XI, especially when Herrera’s general tone with Dos Santos is far less enthusiastic than when he talks about, say, Isaac Brizuela or Carlos Pena.
“Gio is a player that can make a difference, but he plays in a position that I don’t use, in the hole,” Herrera told Fox Sports back last December. “I need two strikers, I don’t need an enganche.”
Herrera also stated to ESPN in January that while Dos Santos is a quality player, he needs to display more consistency for Villarreal.
Aside from on-field issues, Herrera was not happy at Dos Santos suggesting late last year that the Europe-based players took unfair criticism during the near-disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign.
In the short term, Wednesday will be an opportunity for Alan Pulido and/or Raul Jimenez to stake their claim for a more permanent place in the side.
Both the youngsters have the ability to drop deeper for the ball when required, and have the intelligence to play as a second striker off Oribe Peralta or Javier Hernandez.
Pulido, in particular, has been showing good form recently for Tigres and is an exciting prospect. His hat trick against Korea Republic in January will have done him no harm in El Tri’s pecking order.
It is a shame that Dos Santos won’t be featuring in the United States. It would’ve been fascinating to see him come to play with El Tri in form and stating his case for a starting spot in Brazil.
Herrera threw down the gauntlet by suggesting there is no position for Dos Santos in his system and it may well have provoked a reprisal from the 24-year-old.
But while the door is open for others, the fact remains that with Carlos Vela ruling himself out of World Cup contention, Mexico has very few attacking players with the ability to beat players and create something out of nothing like Dos Santos.