After concerns at the start of the week that Mexico might have to do without Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez when it meets Germany in a Confederations Cup semifinal Thursday, the forward looks to be fit and ready to go after a bout of muscular fatigue.
Center back Hector Moreno made a return from an injury of his own in El Tri's 2-1 win against Russia, after it looked like a left ankle problem would keep him out of the final group game.
Getting those players back is great news for Mexico and coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who will need them to be at their best if the side is going to get past the reigning world champion and move into the final against Chile.
Chicharito knew heading into the tournament that he needed to stand out, and it started off well with an excellent game against Portugal that included a goal in the 42nd minute in the 2-2 draw. Moreno had the other goal, but his headers are not the only contribution he makes to Mexico going forward. The newly signed Roma defender starts plenty of attacks, and often that's thanks to the link he has with Chicharito. The forward will drop into the midfield to look for space to turn and start to the attack once the left-footed defender finds him with the ball.
The forward also has been far more free ranging this summer than in past Mexico games, interchanging with Raul Jimenez on the left as Mexico looks to get a higher number of players in one area of the field than the opponent can commit defenders to — or lure them in and change the point of attack.
It is precisely because Chicharito is more than just a scorer in this setup that he becomes so important. While Shkodran Mustafi's comments about Mexico not having a superstar seem to be aimed more at saying Germany must be aware of the collective rather than simply the star forward, the Arsenal defender's words could add even more incentive for the 29-year-old. While he was rotated out against New Zealand, Chicharito said the team is growing because of Osorio's influence, rather than succeeding in spite of it.
"It's going to be a really great game. I'm really happy with the confidence my coach is giving me," the forward said in Wednesday's news conference. "We want to give him the best results, and with that the best for the whole country and everyone in Mexico."
While some of those same people he mentioned will criticize the team if El Tri come home as the third- or fourth-place team after falling to oust Germany's alternate side, Osorio pointed out that Joachim Low's team has become an example to follow because of its depth. Just because the players are young doesn't mean they aren't talented enough to be among the world's best.
"We're talking about the champion of the world, who everyone admires," Osorio said. "There's a big difference between being young and having experience, that's where they have an advantage on us in the sense that it's a group between 22 and 25 years old who, despite their young age, all have more than 100 games in the first division. Many of them have been champions in their club and they've been in the national team system."
Chicharito and Moreno are two of Osorio's players who fit in the same camp of having years of first-division experience while achieving plenty in top-tier leagues. While Chicharito's health grabbed more headlines, a fully fit Moreno may be more important. Mexico's defense, already thin entering the tournament, is without Carlos Salcedo after the makeshift right back suffered a shoulder injury and is unlikely to be able to play Diego Reyes because of a leg issue.
Osorio's hands are a bit tied with Rafa Marquez's fitness, Oswaldo Alanis' quality (and capability to play at left back) and Luis Reyes' experience all questions. Whether Osorio attempts to play Alanis or Reyes as a left back or goes to a three-man back line, Moreno will have plenty of work to do and cover to provide the player next to him.
Mexico has to be thankful that, despite losing Salcedo and Reyes, Moreno is fit and will be able to find a healthy Chicharito as an outlet. Their experience and quality could be vital for Mexico to get past a young, but experienced, Germany team.