The rise of Mexico's Little Pea
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Up until a little over a year ago, the name Javier Hernandez was associated with the former Mexico striker who represented his country at the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™. Nicknamed El Chícharo (The Pea) because of his small stature, the pacy left-winger was called up as a teenager by the then Tricolor coach Bora Milutinovic. Sadly for him, however, he did not make a single appearance at the finals.

Over the last few months another player with the same name and nickname has been staking a compelling claim for a place in the Mexico squad for South Africa 2010. That player is none other than Hernandez’s son, who at the tender age of 20, has become an idol at club side Guadalajara and the country’s great new hope ahead of the finals.

Patience is a virtue
Although El Chicharito (Little Pea) made his professional debut back in 2006, marking the occasion with a goal, he has had to wait for his chance to shine. With goalscorers of the calibre of Omar Bravo, Adolfo Bautista and Alberto Medina ahead of him in the queue at Chivas, the young striker served a lengthy apprenticeship on the bench, attempting to make the most of whatever opportunities came his way as a second-half substitute.

For me this is a chance to prove myself, and it’s just another goal for me, another dream that’s been fulfilled. The main thing, though, is to make the most of the opportunity.
Javier Hernandez on his chance with the national team

His next goal at the highest level did not arrive until three years later. Yet from that moment on he has done nothing but score, hitting the back of the net 23 times in his last 38 games, the best strike rate by a Mexican forward in recent times. Hernandez Jr. has kicked the new 2010 Bicentenario league season off in style, firing eight goals in the first five games before a niggling muscle injury checked his stellar progress slightly.

Aside from the quantity of goals he's managed, the youngster also has plenty of quality to offer and is one of the most complete forwards Mexico has seen for many a year. Despite his slight build and lack of height, he poses a formidable aerial threat, and his speed on the ground allows him to steal in at the far post unnoticed. And to cap it all, he has a fearsome shot on him.

National duty calls
It is no surprise, then, that Mexico fans and the country’s football writers have succumbed to the youngster’s charms. With Chícharomanía sweeping the nation, much is expected of Hernandez, not least by Tricolor coach Javier Aguirre, who has called him up for Mexico’s friendly against Bolivia Wednesday.

Among the centre forward’s many admirers is the owner of his hometown club, Jorge Vergara. “He’s an extremely mature young lad, unlike many other boys his age,” he enthused. “He’s got a good head on him, and I’m convinced he’s ready for the national side because he’s a great striker, something that he’s proved since being given his opportunity with the first team.”

Hernandez certainly fits that glowing description. A calm, modest character, his success is based on hard work and commitment. “Like any player, my dream is to play in the World Cup,” said the man of the moment. “That’s my goal, and there’s nothing wrong with dreaming about it. All the same, I want to approach things with a cool head. This is a great chance for me right now, and I need to enjoy it and work really hard.”

Despite his inner calm, he admits to feeling nervous at the prospect of the famous green jersey resting on his shoulders. “There are always nerves whenever you play, but I am delighted to be here,” he said with obvious enthusiasm. “For me this is a chance to prove myself, and it’s just another goal for me, another dream that’s been fulfilled. The main thing, though, is to make the most of the opportunity.”

Mexico have the honour of kicking off South Africa 2010 when they take on the host nation in the Opening Match. And as far as Hernandez’s compatriots are concerned, they would like nothing better than to see their new idol mark a memorable occasion by hitting the winning goal.