DOHA, Qatar – Nearly three months after last playing a competitive match in the Premier League and less than a week after his return via an international friendly match, Mexico striker Raul Jimenez stepped on the pitch 2022 world cup,
as a 71st-minute substitute during Tuesday’s group stage match against poland31 year old wolverhampton wanderers Desperate to create opportunities for Mexico and find the back of the net for the first time since March, the forward roamed the opposition’s half.
The moment he scored the goal at Stadium 974 in Qatar — with a nearly full capacity 39,000+ in attendance, most of whom were vociferously cheering el tri — never reached out to Jimenez or his teammates.
Try as he might, the veteran player unexpectedly resembled a player who had not taken part in a competitive match for months due to a groin injury. Although his link-up game was promising and he provided some clever distribution, his pace was a step behind others. During his limited time on the pitch, he did not even have the opportunity to register at least one shot in the match against Poland, which eventually ended in a 0–0 draw.
And yet, there was a sense of immense relief seeing Mexico’s leading striker back on the field.
Not just because he represents the national team – a man so singular that he is the only member al tri With a first name on his World Cup jersey – but also that it is a minor miracle that he is back on the field and now in Qatar in 2020 after a previous setback that put his career in jeopardy.
‘Unfair’ criticism after long road to recovery
when mexico takes Argentina (26 November) In his second match of the World Cup, the encounter will come just short of the two-year anniversary of Jimenez’s severe head injury that would change his life forever. during wolves game armory On November 29, 2020, the striker was knocked unconscious and sent to hospital for emergency surgery after a brutal clash of heads with defender David Luiz.
The mid-air collision fractured Jimenez’s skull. He had to be carried off the field and suffered internal bleeding, and faced the possibility of long-term brain damage.
Jimenez will not return to action for eight months until a friendly against Wolves in the summer of 2021. Sporting a headband to protect his head, progress has been slower than last year, with additional injury setbacks in 2022 including a knee problem and his latest groin strain.
Since August, the forward made his unofficial return in a brief cameo in a 2–1 friendly loss to Mexico. Sweden Last week. With the absence of a goal and a poor first touch in his reappearance, the media and fans focused on Jimenez’s performance, placing a harsh spotlight on the recuperating player who was reportedly chosen over the emerging Feyenoord striker. went. Santiago Gimenez for the World Cup roster.
Before the game against Poland, teammates guillermo ochoa defended Jimenez’s performance.
Ochoa said, “Raúl, I see in him the desire, the ambition, the hunger and the eagerness to play.” “The desire to return to that level, the desire to return to playing football after the way Raul has performed, what happened with his head, it is an example to all.”
“I’ve seen him play really well in training, I’ve seen him work on extra things,” he added.
Ochoa also pointed out the critical response A short clip of what appeared to be Jimenez struggling during a training session in Qatar went viral.
“It’s unfair to him at times, because he films a five-second video and says he’s not doing well. He doesn’t even have the necessary information to report what really happened,” Ochoa said. It’s sad.”
Raul’s return sparks cheers in Mexico, but no goals
Luckily, that negativity went out the window once Mexico kicked off against Poland. boosted by the shocking 2-1 result for Maybe Saudi Arab Earlier in the day, there was talk in the air with Argentina that anything is possible in Group C of the World Cup. When Jimenez finally made his second half appearance, there was thunderous applause as his name was announced.
There was no goal for either side, but some heroics from Ochoa saved a dramatic second-half penalty Robert LewandowskiThere was an unexpected mood of optimism from those in the stands who had just seen Mexico gain a crucial point.
And despite feel-good moments from Jimenez’s competitive return or Ochoa’s signature big-game performance, the theme remains the same – someone needs to be found behind the net. el tri,
Against Poland, Mexico played the way they usually have in 2022: lots of possession, slow build-up, but once in the final third… nothing.
Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said, “On equal footing with national teams at the World Cup, without a doubt, there is a need to be more effective in being able to eliminate the few goalscoring situations that are a given in the game”. ” after the game. We didn’t take advantage of three scoring opportunities.”
“Obviously, we are worried about not scoring. There were many chances and we could not finish, we need to give a little more and be more decisive in this tournament,” said Vega.
Tata’s big challenge ahead of Messi, Argentina
Jimenez is a vital part of the attacking play which seems to be worrying if he is unavailable. Mexico will not rely solely on the Wolves player, but that said, it is no coincidence that the national team’s momentum began to slow following his latest injury.
After a promising start to the managerial era for Martino in 2019 and 2020, which included a CONCACAF Gold Cup title, Jimenez’s absence and very slow return to full fitness saw the coach’s 4-3-3 formation completely overhauled. out of sync as he struggled to find. A suitable replacement at the No.9 position.
There were other factors too such as COVID-19 suddenly brought the football world to a halt, but within 13 months, Mexico then failed to win the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League, 2021 Gold Cup and also went four games in a row without a win. United States of america rivals. World Cup qualifying was a slog for Martino’s squad that eventually earned a spot in Qatar, but through several low-scoring wins and draws.
chants ofFuera Tata“(Tata out) became commonplace in almost every game with increasing frustration in the build-up to the World Cup.
In Qatar, the excitement of the tournament and the avoidance of early defeat have helped quell many of those negative feelings, but if Mexico struggle against Argentina, things could slide back into the almost toxic gloom that surrounds the national team. Huh.
On the sport’s biggest stage, the script is perfectly written for a recovering hero like Jimenez to do so when other attacking names were unable to do so at the start of the World Cup. if not, al tri They may not be able to live up to the expectations placed on them. Any slippage to the top two in their group would be seen as a historic failure for a team that has consistently crashed out of every group stage since 1994.
Once they qualify in the knockout rounds, they will try to reach the finals quinto partido (5th game), a legendary goal for the country which has finished one match short of the quarter-final stage in the last seven consecutive World Cups.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Jimenez has yet to score and the odds remain against Argentina, who will be desperate to bounce back from their loss to Saudi Arabia.
Getting a good result against an embarrassing Argentina could be a miracle in itself. But the same can be said of Jimenez, who was playing at the highest level on the field two years ago when he nearly lost his life.