Mexico gears up for World Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Talent-wise Mexico looks to have its best World Cup squad in decades.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:40 IST
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Talent-wise Mexico looks to have its best World Cup squad in decades. That might also be bad news for coach Ricardo Lavolpe and his players. Ranked sixth in the world by FIFA in April, current and former players, soccer commentators and - worst of all - fans, know how good Mexico is heading to Germany. The national team, known as "El Tri," has never won a World Cup, but most think that anything less than a trip to the quarterfinals would be tantamount to failure this year. The goal, actually, is to reach the semifinals. "We are trying to reach new goals. We have been working hard and the objective is to rank among the top four in the World Cup,'' Lavolpe said. Mexico has twice reached the quarterfinals in the World Cup, at home in 1970 and 1986. Lavolpe has no shortage of reasons to be optimistic. Goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez of Chivas is one of the best in the world, an acrobat capable of making up for any lapses in his team's defence. The defence is led by winger Rafael Marquez, one of FC Barcelona's key figures who is equally comfortable playing in defense or midfield. The team has two star strikers - Jared Borgetti of Bolton and Guillermo Franco, an Argentine who was naturalized a Mexican and plays for Villarreal. In addition, the team is equipped with Cruz Azul leader Francisco Fonseca, Chivas forward Omar Bravo, and midfielder Gerardo Torrado. "Expectations are very high and this makes things complicated,'' Marquez said. "I think we will have to work very hard to deal with that mentally ... sometimes we are our own worst enemy.'' Mexico was second in CONCACAF qualifying, behind the United States. But for the first time in its history, Mexico was named as one of the top-seeded in the World Cup, leading Group D. The group, which includes Iran, Angola and Portugal, is considered one of the weakest. Lavolpe announced his preliminary list of 26 players for the Mexican team at the beginning of April. He will have to reduce the list to 23 by May 15. Lavolpe's list caused a stir in Mexico because it left out Cuauhtemoc Blanco, the talented America striker who is known as much for his caustic temperament on and off the field as for his crisp passing and iron will in the game. Lavolpe said Blanco does not fit into his scheme for the Mexican side. Blanco says Lavolpe holds a personal grudge against him. (AP)