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Mexico's star youngster Hirving Lozano still learning to channel, control emotions on pitch

You'll forgive Hirving Lozano if he plays with a chip on his shoulder.

"Chucky" -- a nickname based on the fictional slasher villain that meets his approval -- is far from the tacos al pastor of his native Mexico; he finds the food in Holland lacking variety and flavor. His young family has had a tough time adjusting to life in Europe, the Dutch culture in particular, when he's at practice or his club is away.

That's to say nothing of the relentless sticks, stones and words hurled his way courtesy of opposing clubs and fans as a promising young offensive threat for PSV Eindhoven, the reigning Eredivisie champions and a club with a rich history of Mexican players.

It would be enough to test any 22-year-old's spirit, but the player considered Mexico's next best hope is thriving under those conditions.

"You try to have this attitude that you have the pantalones to show that you're a Mexican player," Lozano told ESPN's David Faitelson in Holland. "I think I've shown that."

So any outbursts on Lozano's part are merely reactions to kicks gone awry that happen to strike his shins, or to insults that may or may not cross the line -- or to any suggestion that a player from Mexico can't succeed in Europe. Still, Chucky insists any comparisons to controversial players such as Uruguay's Luis Suarez -- who has a penchant for biting opponents -- aren't out of the ordinary, that it's a typical label for any young player trying to prove himself in a foreign country.

"I think it's normal, all things that happen on the field," Lozano said. "Maybe others do the same things that I do, maybe worse. I've been lucky, or maybe not, I don't know. They're things that happen, but I'm pretty calm about it."

Lozano has been fortunate to start his European career on a side such as PSV, a club that has embraced Mexican players such as Andres Guardado, Carlos Salcido, Francisco Javier "Maza" Rodriguez and Hector Moreno. The respect and admiration that PSV and their fans have shown toward his countrymen is something Lozano appreciates.

The winger has repaid the admiration on the field. He headed to PSV in 2017, fresh from capping his stay with Liga MX's Pachuca with a Golden Boot won at the CONCACAF Champions League. It wasn't long before PSV fans acknowledged his offensive prowess with standing ovations -- he has scored 19 times in 34 games over all competitions since his arrival.

He also has a pair of red cards on his ledger, the latest coming in a league game in February when he made contact with the face of Heerenveen's Lucas Woudenberg. The infraction led to a three-match suspension.

"This last experience with my ejection, it was exaggerated. And when it came time to appeal, those who are in charge threw in another game at the last hour," Lozano said. "Some things, I don't know if it's because they don't want the Mexican player to succeed simply because of where he's from, that they want to take away our influence. But I feel good and am trying to move forward."

Mexico captain Guardado, a veteran in Europe who said he has experienced similar treatment there, believes Lozano can do great things as long as he keeps his cool.

"We've gotten on him about that with the national team," Guardado said. "It's OK, get mad, but don't react. You can't let it get in your head. But it's his age, too. He has to learn."

Lozano appears to be taking well to his lessons abroad, given a rise that's surprised even him. He credits the time and dedication put in since he was developing with Pachuca, along with a willingness to capitalize on opportunities. Russia will present his biggest opportunity to date.

Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio's style -- frequent lineup changes and providing opportunities to everyone on his roster -- also lends itself to the strengths of a player who values making assists as much as scoring.

"Personally, I like that he [Osorio] gives everyone a chance," Lozano said. "When he makes his lineups, not everybody is on board, it happens everywhere. You can't please everybody all of the time. If it's the best thing for us on the field, I think it's what's best for the team."

Lozano is in the early stages of fielding expectations that befell Mexico legends such as Hugo Sanchez, Rafael Marquez and current El Tri striker and all-time record scorer Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. He takes those expectations in stride, insisting he always gives his best and that everything else follows accordingly.

In the meantime, Lozano is eagerly anticipating making the World Cup his stage for the first time when Mexico meet Germany on June 17.

"It's going to be a very special moment for me," he said. "Hopefully I can laugh, enjoy myself and have fun in the best way."