13th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
Mexico's multifaceted midfield dynamo, Hector Herrera, went into his side's colossal Copa America opener against Uruguay with rumours rife about his future at club level.
If reports are to be believed, Liverpool, Napoli and Valencia have all recently shown a keen interest in FC Porto's prized asset, who the Dragoes value at a cool €20m million, with Liverpool apparently just ceding Napoli in the race for his signature.
Judging on his exceptional performance in Mexico's entrancing victory over La Celeste, Herrera was clearly unaffected by all the talk surrounding him. Instead, he just went about his work in customarily tireless and robust fashion, in a performance where his technical gifts and goalscoring capacity also shone through brightly.
Herrera got off to a flying start, with his surging run from deep and subsequent pressure on Alvaro Pereira providing the catalyst for the Uruguayan stalwart to head Andres Guardado's whipping cross into his own net to give Mexico the lead just four minutes in.
And from there, Herrera worked himself into the game beautifully from what was ostensibly a central attacking midfield role. Within the confines of coach Juan Carlos Osorio's unconventional 3-4-3 (or 3-1-2-3-1 depending on perceptions), the 26-year-old's relentless work rate ensured he was a constant source of menace to the Uruguayans, with Egidio Arevalo Rios, his direct opponent, enduring a particularly difficult time marking him.
By persistently buzzing laterally and vertically across the attacking third, the ultra fit former Pachuca starlet ensured his teammates always had a viable outlet to utilise. Herrera's immense running power and intelligence to find vacant space was a feature throughout, in a match where his incessant movement regularly pulled Rios out of position to create openings for his fellow attackers.
Although his hard work often went unrewarded, it was still undoubtedly a key component in Mexico's attacking strategy. Once he did obtain possession, however, he exhibited his slick technical quality by linking play well with his vast repetoire of passes and showcasing his tidy dribbling ability to beat his man. Upon adding in his tremendous strength on the ball and exemplary tactical intelligence, it's unsurprising why Mexico coach, Osorio, holds his star pupil in such high regard.
"Hector Herrera is a fantastic player who can get up to the level of [Bastian] Schweinsteiger," Osorio recently gleamed.
Herrera's importance to El Tri isn't just limited to the attacking side of the game, though, for he's equally effective on the defensive end too. And against Oscar Washington Tabarez's men, this was precisely the case. From the outset, Herrera's relentless, intense pressing made life very uncomfortable for Uruguay to smoothly pass out from the back, with Herrera causing numerous turnovers as a result of his tenacity and desire to get at his opponents.
Scoring a goal late on was unquestionably the perfect way to reward himself for all his strong exertions, both on and off the ball. Mexico faced a tough fixture with Jamaica as their second game, and once again their complete midfielder, who's ostensibly devoid of any weaknesses, did all he could to help his team achieve a second win in succession. He set up Peralta in the 81st minute to give Mexico a 2-0 victory and a guaranteed spot in the Copa 100 quarterfinals.
Despite all the transfer talk swirling around about his future, you just know Herrera will get on with the job throughout the rest of the tournament with unwavering commitment and enthusiasm.
After all, Herrera's certainly not one to let such rumours and innuendo get in the way of the task at hand, which, right now, is focusing on winning the Copa America Centenario with his beloved national team.
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Mexico's multifaceted midfield dynamo, Hector Herrera
13th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.