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Mexico

Population: 101,800,000
Area: 1,972,550 km²
Capital: Mexico City
Language: Spanish

 
THE ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
Mexico progressed quite comfortably from the CONCACAF semifinal groupstage, but had to wait until the last match of the final group to secure a place in the World Cup having struggled more than expected against less glamorous teams.
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WORLD CUP HISTORY
Participations: (11) 1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1978, 1986, 1994 and 1998
Best placing: Quarterfinal 1970 and 1986
Topscorer: Luis Hernandez, 4 goals
More detailed history information

 
FIRST ROUND MATCHES
Jun 03 - MEX v CRO  in Niigata
Jun 09 - MEX v ECU  in Miyagi
Jun 13 - MEX v ITA  in Oita

 
ONE TO WATCH
Cuauhtemoc Blanco is a very skillful and unpredictable player who can turn a game within 5 seconds of magic. He threatened to quit the national team, but is now back again to sparkle this rather bleak Mexican squad.

 
WCA VERDICT: First round exit
Mexico seem to lose the grip as leading nation in the Concacaf and had all sorts of problems qualifying. Here they will be grouped with teams who have all impressed more and we think Mexico will go home after three games.



CONCACAF POWERHOUSE POSSIBLY ON THE DECLINE


by Peter Goldstein


    Mexico owes its qualification to one man: coach Javier Aguirre. "El Vasco" (he's of Basque descent) took over a listless, dispirited team, pretty much left for dead in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. He kicked out famous stars like Luis Hernandez and Jorge Campos, brought in a whole new set of players, remolded the team in his own gritty image, and brought the Tricolores scratching and scrapping back, winning four and drawing one, clinching the region's last spot on the final day. It wasn't pretty, but it was something to admire.

    But Mexican fans are never satisfied, and now he faces the hard part: taking a modestly talented team into the second round, or farther, at Korea/Japan. The good news: striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who scored the key goals in the qualifiers, then threatened to boycott the team, is back in the fold. Blanco is the one magic man on the roster: unorthodox in looks, in temperament, in style, he can create goals from nowhere and score them from anywhere. (Forget Owen, forget Bergkamp: Blanco's flying horizontal far-post left-footed strike against Belgium was the most spectacular goal of France '98.)

    There are two other good strikers in the pool. Francisco Palencia is agile, tireless, and versatile: he can score, create, and play effective defense from the front. Jared Borgetti, as befits his ancestry, plays more Italian than Mexican: relatively slow, but stylish and elegant, he can score with both feet and is outstanding in the air. Whoever partners Blanco, it'll be a strong pair.

    But strikers can't do much without service; the midfield has plenty of toughness, but little imagination. And now for the bad news: the most creative midfielder on the team, Jesus Arellano, who plays right wingback in the 3-5-2, will have to serve a red-card suspension for the first two games. He's small, clever, with great pace and good ball skills, but unless the suspension is lifted, he won't see much action. Javier Saavedra, a tireless two-way player, is one possible replacement. A controversial choice would be Gabriel Caballero, a naturalized Argentine who plays in the Mexican First Division. He's got the skills, and is a natural right-sided player, but many in Mexico oppose naturalized players on principle. On the left side is Ramon Morales, not bad; he's mobile, marks well, and shows occasional inspiration in attack.

    But that still leaves the center lacking. Aguirre has brought back Alberto Garcia Aspe, leader of the 1994 team, to play in the middle: he's still got the cultured left foot, but can't create like he used to, and isn't all that attack-minded by nature. Johan Rodriguez has shown pace and attacking power as an inside right, although he too will have to miss a game due to a red card. Sigifredo Mercado, a spirited, technically sound veteran who can play anywhere in midfield, will probably see some time. Another possibility is Alberto Rodriguez, a battler in the Aguirre mold; he's usually listed as a defender, but has the tools to play midfield as well. Gerardo Torrado of Sevilla is a clear first choice at defensive midfield: he's a very hard tackler, erratic in positioning at times.

    The back three is pretty solid. Top of the class is young Rafael Marquez of Monaco: he's physical but also fast enough to play on the wing and move up in attack, and he reads the game instinctively. He can play on either side. In the middle the probable choice is Manuel Vidrio, big and tough, not particularly quick but hard to get by. There are several candidates for the third spot. Melvin Brown is fast and skilled, probably the most talented, best on the right side. Rafael Garcia is a solid all-rounder whose stock has risen steadily. Heriberto Morales isn't that strong technically, but he's tough and has pace. Grand old man Claudio "The Emperor" Suarez, the world leader in caps (over 170!), suffered a leg fracture in training and will miss the tournament.

    Aguirre surprised everyone by recalling keeper Jorge Campos for a friendly against the USA, but at most he'll be a bench player. Oscar Perez, very much the man in form, has claimed the spot. He's a less flamboyant version of Campos: smallish but with great reflexes, and able to come off his line with spectacular success.

    Mexican football may be in for a dry spell: the stars of the previous generation are at the end of their careers, and the youth system hasn't been particularly productive of late. The 2002 edition of the "Tri" certainly won't win any style points. But they don't give an inch, and Aguirre knows how to make them play. On paper they look as if they're set for an early exit, but even in a tough group with Italy and Croatia, don't bet against El Vasco.



A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY

by Jan Alsos


    Mexico can boast eleven World Cup finals appearances. Itís matched only by four other countries, but despite their high number of participations they can hardly be called a powerhouse in World Cup history. They have experienced far more downs than ups and critics who say Mexico have often got an easy passage to the World Cup have plenty of good arguments. Mexico took part in the very first finals in Uruguay 1930, but crashed out with three straight defeats. It was a pattern they would follow for many years to come.

    They didnít bother to travel to any of the remaining pre-war tournaments in Europe, but showed up in Brazil in 1950 only to get thrashed again. Zero points became routine and history repeated itself in 1954 and also four years later in Sweden - for the first game anyway. Mexico managed a draw against Wales and secured their first ever point which was some consolation even if another heavy defeat followed in the third preliminary game against Hungary.

    A sensational win over coming finalists Czechoslovakia in 1962 ended the bad run of thirteen winless games, but it wasnít enough to progress because Spain and Brazil had already beaten Mexico before that match. Mexico were present in England 1966 and came away with credit in this tournament drawing France and Uruguay, the latter a 0-0 game which meant legendary goalkeeper - and first man with five tournaments - Antonio Carbajal managed to keep his first and only clean sheet in a World Cup match in his last appearance.

    Mexico hosted the World Cup in 1970 and impressed in the first round beating Belgium and El Salvador which set them up against Italy in the quarterfinal. An ugly 4-1 defeat against an Italy side that had barely scored in the tournament put the Mexican performance in a bad light. It took eight more years until they qualified again and in Argentina they were back at their old habbits with zero points after the first round. Further eight years later in 1986, Mexico hosted the World Cup again and things started well. Mexico topped their group and beat Bulgaria in the second round before West Germany became too much to handle in the eventual quarterfinal penalty shoot-out. The Mexicans had a mental black-out and only managed to put one ball behind Schumacher.

    Mexico were banned for the 1990 World Cup because of fielding overaged players in an U20-tournament, but they were back for the 1994 World Cup in the US where they lost the opening game to Norway, but fought back with a win against Ireland and a draw against Italy to top the tightest World Cup group in history with all teams on equal points, but Mexico with most goals scored. Bulgaria were opponents in the second round, but those penalties just wouldnít go in. Yet again Mexico missed all but one. A last minute equalizer against Holland in the final groupmatch in 1998 gave Mexico a much celebrated second round place against Germany, but Klinsmann and Bierhoff put the Germans through, although Mexico performed well.

 

 

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