Hirving Lozano may not bear any physical resemblance to a small, evil, red-headed doll, but he still goes by the nickname ‘Chucky’.
He earned the moniker for a rather more innocent form of torment than his namesake after joining the youth academy of Mexican club Pachuca as an 11 year old. There, he not only stood out because of his exceptional footballing ability, but also because of his custom of hiding under unsuspecting team-mates’ beds at night and scaring them before they went to sleep.
‘Chucky’ progressed over the years and made the step up into Mexico’s top flight. Although he outgrew the habit of giving people a fright, his capacity to surprise remains as strong as ever. In Mexico’s second group game against Uruguay at the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, attacking midfielder Jose Ramirez burst down the left and crossed the ball into the box. There appeared to be little danger for Uruguay, whose goalkeeper and a defender merely watched on as the ball floated over.
However, to everyone’s surprise, Lozano arrived from nowhere to beat both of them to the ball and rattle the crossbar with a header. “I really wanted to score,” Lozano told FIFA.com after the final whistle. “I was really nervous because it was a crucial game for our hopes of reaching the next round. I was happy because I was getting closer and closer to scoring, but at the same time I was anxious because I wanted to celebrate.
The first half finished 0-0, leaving Mexico goalless in 135 minutes of play in New Zealand. The pressure was starting to show on the team’s strikers, but Lozano ended their drought in the second period after using two of his strongest qualities to good effect: the element of surprise and the ability to beat his man.
I’ve always said we’ve got great players in this team, so we’re going to go for it.
Uruguay were passing their way forward as usual when left-back Mauricio Lemos calmly received the ball, unaware that 'Chucky' was poised to strike. Lozano, one of the brightest prospects in Mexican football, closed him down, robbed him of possession and sprinted towards the penalty area before cutting inside past Kevin Mendez and slotting the ball low past the goalkeeper.
“It was a special and emotional moment, the kind that really hits you after a while,” the 5’7” midfielder said. “I’m really happy because I had the opportunity to score and I’m grateful to my team-mates who put in a lot of effort to support me throughout the match.”
Yet Lozano’s joy at celebrating his maiden World Cup goal was short-lived, as just 12 minutes later Mathias Suarez equalised following a set-piece, leaving Mexico facing the prospect of having just one point from the six available thus far. “To be honest, at that point you do start thinking negative thoughts, that the victory has slipped from your grasp,” Lozano said. “But we never lost hope or the confidence in our ability to recover and earn all three points.”
With the match seemingly heading for a draw, they were rewarded in stoppage time when Kevin Gutierrez curled a free-kick in off the woodwork to hand Mexico all three points. “Fortunately my team-mate scored a great goal,” Lozano said, unable to hide a smile. “We all celebrated and were buoyed by that. We saw that we can do it, that we can cope with anything. That gives us confidence.”
Nevertheless, Lozano was keen to keep his feet on the ground: “We’ve still got another game, which we have to win in order to keep progressing in the tournament. We’re really happy and motivated by the result today. I’ve always said we’ve got great players in this team, so we’re going to go for it.”