Mexico were unable to shatter their quinto partido curse at the World Cup, but that did not stop them from producing one of the brightest stars of Russia 2018. Hirving Lozano had been tipped by many to be the breakout player of the tournament following a successful debut season with PSV Eindhoven, and it is safe to say that he has only enhanced his reputation while exceeding all expectations.
In the summer of 2017, Lozano crossed the Atlantic divide to join the Eredivisie club, who were impressed by his eye-catching displays for Mexican club Pachuca. Phillip Cocu’s side won the league title with weeks to spare, thanks in no small part to Lozano’s 17 goals and eight assists in 29 appearances.
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Lozano does his best work when cutting inside onto his stronger right foot from the left wing, although he has played on the opposite flank at times. His impressive goal-scoring haul is the result of timing his mazey runs to perfection while attacking spaces behind opposition defences. His change of pace is one of the biggest strengths to his game.
Add to that a powerful and accurate shot, tremendous ball control, and the mentality to succeed, and it makes for a formidable skillset. It was no surprise that much of PSV’s attack went through the 22-year-old as they powered their way to the Eredivisie title.
Lozano finished the season as the PSV’s top scorer and his excellent performances caught the eye of clubs from bigger leagues, although one criticism from his time in the Netherlands has been his temperament. It has been termed his biggest weakness, as young winger was involved in incidents during which he was quick to react when provoked even slightly, which led to him being sent off on two occasions.
The standout performance:
— Roar Of The Kop (@_RoarOfTheKop_) June 17, 2018
Lozano’s penchant for hiding under teammates’ beds to scare them earned him the nickname “Chucky”, but there was no hiding in Russia. He did, however, prove to be a nightmare for defences – and made tormenting Germany look like, erm, Child’s Play.
Indeed, it was his dynamic and fearless display against Joachim Löw’s then-holders that proved to be the beginning of the end for their defence of the world crown. More importantly, his well-taken goal secured a famous victory for El Tri and gave them a shot at qualification from Group F.
A vibrant Mexico attack ruthlessly threatened many times on the counter, more so in the first half, and it was one of them which Lozano finished off. Javier Hernández dealt with Mats Hummels and Jerôme Boateng in one swift motion while Lozano, who had by now embarked on one of his trademark runs, cut inside, found space in the Germany area, and fired past Manuel Neuer.
Carrying his club form onto the grandest of stages, the goal capped an electric performance for Lozano – his relentless will to charge at Germany’s defence was one of the highlights – against the team tipped to be the tournament favourites, with a finish worthy of announcing him to the world.
The ideal player for:
Inevitably, Lozano’s already rising stock has skyrocketed and invited interest from Barcelona, Juventus, and a host of clubs from the Premier League. Despite a long-term contract with PSV, it is unlikely that he will remain to assist them in retaining the league title. In fact, his father, in an interview with ESPN Mexico, confirmed that the Catalan giants have shown interest in securing his services. In addition, bringing on Mino Raiola to represent him could well be seen as an indication that Lozano may be on the move this summer.
Although a case can be made that another staying with the Dutch side would be best for his development, Lozano would be a good fit at Bayern Munich. With both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry nearing the end of their careers, Lozano has the potential to take over the role of one of Bayern’s dynamic wingers.
Additionally, he would thrive in an environment like the Bundesliga, while Champions League football every season is virtually guaranteed. Opportunities, of course, would depend on his performances, but Lozano has consistently shown he is capable of delivering under pressure.
9/10. Lozano was an influential figure in Mexico’s two wins in Russia, scoring the decisive (and, for him, career-defining) goal against Germany and setting up Hernández’s winner against Korea Republic. With his work rate and determination, he shone even in defeats to Sweden and Brazil, fully transforming from a promising prospect to, in the words of coach Juan Carlos Osorio, “Mexico’s present and future”.