It was a historic win for Mexico when it topped the United States in Columbus in November 2016, but star forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez says the team's players didn't have the weight of the moment on their minds.
Mexico hadn't won a World Cup qualifier on American soil since 1972 before topping the U.S. 2-1. Adding to the pre-match frustration for El Tri fans, the U.S. had won the last four contests by the same 2-0 scoreline that became a rallying cry for U.S. fans. But despite all the history and animosity surrounding the game, Chicharito says that didn't come up.
"You might find this hard to believe, but we don’t even talk about things like that," he told FIFA's official site. "We knew we were coming up against a good side, who were at home too, and that we needed the three points to make a good start to the Hexagonal.
"So we just focused on the game and not on all the stuff surrounding it. We worked on the tactical, physical and mental side of things so that we could win a very important game for us, which is just what we did, without worrying about what was going on around it."
Chicharito went the full 90 minutes in that game and in Mexico's scoreless draw with Panama, results that have El Tri sitting second in the Hex early on. While some criticism of Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio continues to come in after his side's exit from the Copa America Centenario in the summer of 2016 after a 7-0 loss to Chile, the forward backed the Colombian for his preparation and style.
"Osorio is very adventurous in his approach. He likes to attack and he wants us to keep pushing forward the whole time," said the forward, who is one goal away from tying Mexico's all-time scoring record. "That boldness means he has a huge amount of confidence in the Mexico players and you can see that on the pitch, because he gives you a lot of freedom. He does a lot of preparation and he sets matches up in a way that allows us to be comfortable on the pitch and to play an attacking game."
The striker is in the midst of a scoring drought in Europe but helped Bayer Leverkusen to a 3-1 victory Sunday over Hertha. Mexico has a friendly against Iceland on Feb. 8 that won't feature Europe-based players before Hex matches against Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago that should feature Chicharito and his fellow stars based abroad.