DOHA, Qatar — virtually three months after final taking half in a aggressive match inside the Premier League and fewer than every week after his return through a world nice, Mexico striker Raul Jimenez stepped onto the pitch on the 2022 World Cup.
As a 71st minute substitute all through Tuesday’s group stage match in opposition to Poland, the 31-yr-outdated Wolverhampton Wanderers forward roamed throughout the opposition’s half, determined to create alternatives and to get hold of the again of the internet for Mexico for the predominant time since March.
That purpose-scoring second in Qatar’s Stadium 974 — virtually at full performance with 39,000-plus in attendance, most of whom have been emphatically rooting for El Tri — by no means arrived for Jimenez or his teammates.
try as he might, the veteran unsurprisingly resembled a participant who hasn’t taken half in a aggressive match for months as a consequence of a groin damage. although his hyperlink-up play was promising and he provided some clever distribution, his tempo was a step behind most others. through his restricted time on the pitch, he additionally did not have a hazard to at the very least register a shot inside the match in opposition to Poland, which finally accomplished in a zero-zero draw.
And but, there was a method of good aid seeing Mexico’s main striker again on the sector.
Not solely as a consequence of what he represents to the nationwide group — a decide so singular that he is the solely member of El Tri with a standalone first title on his World Cup jersey — however in addition as a consequence of it is a minor miracle that he is again on the sector in Qatar after a earlier setback in 2020 that threatened his profession.
‘Unjust’ criticism after prolonged highway to restoration
When Mexico sort out Argentina (Nov. 26) of their second match of the World Cup, the encounter will land simply shy of the two-yr anniversary of Jimenez’s extreme head damage that will alter his life eternally. all through Wolves’ recreation in opposition to Arsenal on Nov. 29, 2020, the striker was knocked unconscious and despatched to the hospital for emergency surgical procedure after a brutal conflict of heads with defender David Luiz.
The mid-air collision fractured Jimenez’s skull. He needed to be stretchered off the sector and suffered inside bleeding, and confronted the potential of prolonged-time period mind harm.
Jimenez wouldn’t return to the sector for eight months till a nice for Wolves inside the summertime of 2021. Sporting a scarf to defend his head, progress has been gradual over the previous yr or so, with further damage setbacks in 2022 which have included a knee problem and his latest groin stress.
Out since August, the forward made his unofficial return in a brief cameo for Mexico in a 2-1 nice loss to Sweden final week. lacking a purpose and with a nasty first contact in his reappearance, media and followers pounced on the efficiency of Jimenez, placing a harsh spotlight on the recuperating participant who had reportedly been chosen over up-and-coming Feyenoord striker Santiago Gimenez for the World Cup roster.
forward of the sport in opposition to Poland, teammate Guillermo Ochoa defended Jimenez’s efficiency.
“Raul, I see him with a want, with an ambition, with a hunger and with an eagerness to play,” Ochoa said. “the will to return to that diploma, to return to play soccer inside the best means that Raul has demonstrated, after what occurred to his head, it is an event for all people.”
“I’ve seen him taking half in very properly in teaching, I’ve seen him engaged on further issues,” he added.
Ochoa additionally acknowledged as out the vital response of a brief clip that had gone viral of Jimenez seeming to battle all through a teaching session in Qatar.
“it is unjust a quantity of instances in the direction of him, as a consequence of they film a 5-second video and in addition they are saying he is not doing properly. they do not even have any mandatory information to report what actually occurred. it is unhappy,” Ochoa said.
Raul’s return sparks Mexico pleasure, however no purpose
fortunately, that negativity appeared to exit the window as quickly as Mexico kicked off in opposition to Poland. maybe boosted by the surprising 2-1 consequence for Saudi Arabia earlier inside the day over Argentina, there was a buzz inside the air about something being potential in Group C of the World Cup. When Jimenez finally made his second-half look, it was to rapturous applause as his title was introduced.
there have been no targets for both side, however with some heroics from Ochoa in his dramatic second half penalty save in opposition to Robert Lewandowski, there was an sudden temper of optimism from these inside the stands that had simply seen Mexico safe a large level.
And regardless of the texture-good moments of Jimenez’s aggressive return or Ochoa’s signature huge-recreation efficiency, the theme stays the identical — somebody should get hold of the again of the internet for El Tri.
in opposition to Poland, Mexico performed the best means that they typically have in 2022: a quantity of possession, gradual construct-up, however as quickly as inside the closing third … nothing.
“In a World Cup with nationwide teams on the identical diploma, what’s needed, little question, is to be extra sensible in being in a place to full the few goalscoring circumstances that are given in a recreation,” said Mexico supervisor Gerardo “Tata” Martino after the sport. “We might not capitalize on the three scoring alternatives that we had.”
starting striker Henry Martin had a reasonably common match however wasn’t in a place to make a lot of his vital time on the sector. Alongside him, winger Alexis Vega might not revenue from his personal possibilities.
“clearly, we’re apprehensive about not being in a place to attain a purpose. there have been numerous possibilities and we might not finish, we now want to current a bit extra and be extra decisive on this event,” Vega said.
Tata has a tall process forward in Messi, Argentina
Jimenez is an mandatory a ingredient of an attacking course of that has appeared worrisome when he is unavailable. Mexico will not be solely counting on the Wolves participant, however that said, it is not a coincidence that the nationwide group’s momentum started to gradual after his latest string of accidents.
After a promising start to the managerial period for Martino in 2019 and 2020, which included a CONCACAF Gold Cup title, Jimenez’s absence and actually gradual return to full health threw the coach’s 4-three-three formation utterly out of sync as he struggled to discover an relevant substitute inside the No. 9 place.
there have been utterly different components, similar to COVID-19 all of the sudden pausing the soccer world, however inside a span of thirteen months, Mexico then did not win the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League and the 2021 Gold Cup, and in addition they additionally went 4 consecutive video games with no victory in opposition to their united states of america rivals. World Cup qualifying was a slog for Martino’s squad who finally earned a spot in Qatar, however through pretty simply a few low-scoring wins and attracts.
as quickly as inside the knockout spherical, if licensed, they’re going to then search to attain the quinto partido (fifth recreation), a legendary purpose for the nation that has accomplished one match wanting the quarterfinal stage inside the final seven consecutive World Cups.
however let’s not get forward of ourselves. Jimenez has but to attain and the percentages stay troublesome in opposition to Argentina, who will probably be overly desirous to bounce again after shedding to Saudi Arabia.
Getting a very good consequence in opposition to an embarrassed Argentina might very properly be a miracle in itself. however the identical might very properly be said for Jimenez, again on the sector taking half in on the very best diploma, virtually two years to the day when he virtually misplaced his life.