Hirving Lozano solidifies Mexico star status with double vs. Belgium

Hirving Lozano Mexico Belgium
The 22-year-old put his name firmly among the top stars of the Mexico national team, backing up his hot start to the season with two goals Friday

Chicharito. Hector Moreno. Hirving Lozano.

You can put the third name among Mexico's top players without fear. "El Chucky" scored two lovely goals Friday in a 3-3 draw with Belgium, continuing his incredible start to the 2017-18 campaign and solidifying his place as a bona fide star for El Tri.

It was a positive performance for Mexico, which twice went behind and twice fought back to level the scoreline. The second equalizer came when Hector Herrera sent a long ball in Lozano's direction and the 22-year-old used his first touch to set himself up for a right-footed shot to the inside post that flummoxed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

"I think it was a beautiful game. The team looked really good against an important national team, with players who are at a world-class level," he told Univision after the game. "The first thing is that the team looked good and thankfully I was able to score."

Lozano had Mexico ahead of the fifth-ranked team in the FIFA rankings two minutes later after he shifted inside and had his first effort saved by Courtois. Lozano was waiting for the rebound and volleyed the ball home before the Chelsea goalkeeper could recover.

Lozano is building on the incredible start he's had to life in Europe. After moving from Pachuca in the summer, months after helping Tuzos to the CONCACAF Champions League crown, he's scored nine goals in as many matches for PSV. That's good enough to lead the Eredivisie. His goals Friday made it five in his last seven national team games. 

"I feel good. I think I’ve raised my level of play. I think I feel better," Lozano told TDN of his hot start. "It shows in the result of the game, but the day-to-day work is what makes it happen. I’m thankful to God for the opportunities I’m getting. I’m going to take as much advantage of it as I can."

The third goal nearly was there but Lozano pushed the chance that would've given him a hat trick just wide of the far post. He shrugged off that miss after the game saying: "That's football." 

What shouldn't get lost in the fervor over his goalscoring are the moments he had in the first half of the match that showed how he's progressing since moving to Europe. There was the moment where he tracked back to poke the ball away from Kevin De Bruyne during a promising Belgium attack. Just this week, I noted that Lozano must improve the defensive aspects of the game if he's going to succeed at a top Premier League or La Liga outfit.

There also was the play where Miguel Layun played him into space and he immediately cut inside and pulled a ball back to the spot once he could do no more against the Belgium defense. Lozano has showed at PSV that he loves to have the ball played to space where he can run onto it, but he hasn't always shown a propensity to link up with other players after that happens. No Mexican was in position to make a play on the ball in the first half, but it's another positive development.

Overall, it was a night of hope for Mexico. The team hung with Belgium in a thoroughly entertaining draw. Lozano likely will play less of a role Monday against Poland, where El Tri will give other players a chance to get minutes and experiment a bit more.

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"It's really easy now to say he has a great future - two years ago normally Carlos Vela and Jesus Corona were playing there and were the topics of discussion. Today he's at a high level, and credit to him because he's done what it takes to get better," manager Juan Carlos Osorio said after the match. "We're really happy for the chance he has. PSV keeps believing in Mexican players and he has the skills to play in Europe.

"Today he's taken a big step toward showing it's no coincidence what he's doing." 

More chances are coming. Lozano has spent a long time being the player of the future of the Mexican national team. It's clear after Friday that he's one of the present stars as well.