Javier Hernandez cemented his status as Mexico’s leading striker Saturday, sending his team home from the Confederations Cup on a high note by scoring twice in a 2-1 victory over Japan in their final Group A match.
With seven goals in his last eight games for Mexico, the 25-year-old Manchester United striker has now climbed up his country’s all-time scoring leaderboard to third spot, which he shares with retired forward Luis Hernandez.
He’s always been a very insistent, determined player,” said Mexico coach Jose Manuel De la Torre, who also managed Hernandez at Guadalajara.
“He’s highly competitive, and has a huge dynamic and sense of timing in order to score ... and that is what has taken him to be at these very high levels with Manchester United. Now he’s simply responding with these goals for the national team.”
After struggling to threaten in the first half at the Mineirao Stadium, Hernandez met Andres Guardado’s cross in the 54th minute and headed in again in the 66th from Giovani Dos Santos’ corner.
Shinji Okazaki pulled one back for Japan in the 86th and Hernandez won a penalty in stoppage time, but his weak effort was saved and he sent the follow-up against the crossbar.
Both Mexico and Japan were playing only for pride, having been eliminated from the Confederations Cup by losing their first two matches at the next year World Cup test event.
“We have an unpleasant taste in our mouths — we don’t like seeing our team being eliminated early from a tournament,” Hernandez said through a translator.
“But Mexico at least made it... and this victory helps us in building the confidence back.”
Although Japan leaves Brazil having finished bottom of its group without a point, the team’s return trip to Brazil is already guaranteed.
The Asian champions were the first World Cup qualifiers while Mexico is still slugging it out for a spot from the CONCACAF confederation.