by Christopher Stout
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Mexico is an experienced team looking to make a statement in Germany. With 12 World Cup appearances under their belt, including three consecutive qualifications in which the team advanced past the group stage, Mexico is a team out to earn respect.
The national team has had its best success when hosting the tournament, having reached the quarterfinals on its home turf in 1970 and 1986. Some have said that Mexican national teams are only able to excel in South American arenas. In Germany, Mexico will look to dispel that viewpoint.
Currently ranked No. 7 in the world, Mexico has been in the top 10 for several years, making it into the top 5 in 2005. In the 2002 World Cup, Mexico's North American rivals, the USA, knocked the team out of the final 16 in Korea. During 2006 qualifications, Mexico finished second to the USA in the CONCACAF group, and they split their two matches. Expectations are high for the 2006 Mexican National Team, and anything short of the quarterfinals might be seen as a disappointment. With a winning combination of youth and experience, Mexico should go far in the tournament.
Key Players: Jared Borgetti was the world's top scorer in FIFA World Cup qualifying. He has scored a record 37 goals in the 60 international appearances he has made for the Mexican National Team. Borgetti is the first Mexican national ever to play in the English Premier League, and he has enjoyed success with Bolton Wanderers F.C. In the 2005 Confederations Cup, Borgetti scored three goals against Brazil and Germany, helping Mexico achieve a fourth-place finish. Nicknamed "El Zorro del Desierto" (the Desert Fox), this striker will look to score goals in bunches when Mexico plays in the finals.
Francisco Fonseca also knows how to find the net. In a World Cup qualifying match against Guatamala in 2005, the striker from Cruz Azul scored four times. Fonseca scored 15 goals in his first 20 games, and he has a goal-per-game ratio that compares favorably with any other soccer superstar. In the 2004 Clausura, Fonseca led UNAM Pumas to a championship, a feat he repeated in the 2004 Apertura. Before being transferred to Cruz Azul, Fonseca registered 25 goals in 81 appearances for the Pumas. He will be a force at forward for quite some time.
FC Barcelona star Rafael Marquez has been a fixture of the Mexican national team for some time. The star defender made 77 appearances for Atlas de Guadalajara before being purchased by the French club Monaco for 6 Million Euros in 1999. Marquez helped Monaco win the French title in his first season with the club. In 2003, Barcelona forked over 5 Million Euros for his services. In his second season with Barcelona he helped the team secure their 17th Spanish League title.
Goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez made his debut with Atlas in 1993. He then tended goal for Club America, before joining Chivas de Guadalajara. Although he has yet to win a championship with Chivas, he has been a team leader there for more than 12 seasons. He won the 2003 Gold Cup and was named the tournament's MVP. Sanchez even has a school in Guadalajara where he teaches goalkeeping to Mexico's future soccer stars.
Francisco Guillermo Ochoa is Mexico's new prodigy goalkeeper. Ochoa appeared in the 2004 Olympics as part of the Under-23 Mexican team. That same year he replaced the injured Adolfo Rios and took over goalkeeping duties for Club America. During the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Ochoa was included in the senior national team as the third goalie. His debut for the senior team came in late 2005 in a game against Hungary, a match in which the young goalie displayed the type of composure that one would expect from a veteran international player. The young Ochoa is sure to play a prominent role in the future of Mexican soccer.
2006 Mexico World Cup Odds: Nine Sportsbook lists the odds of Mexico winning the World Cup at 40/1. Mexico and Portugal are widely viewed as the favorites to advance past Group D (a group that also includes Iran and Angola).
Strengths: The Mexican national team is enjoying a serious hot streak. Mexico is coming off a staggering 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign in which the team combines for 67 goals, more than any other team in the world. Coach Ricardo Lavolpe hopes this offensive output continues in Germany.
Weaknesses: Mexico's backfield might be a little soft, and unlike its qualifying campaign, Mexico will have a more difficult time scoring against the opponents it will face in the tournament. The intense pressure for Mexico to perform might also be viewed as a burden.
Mexico World Cup 2006 Outlook: High expectations mean that the national squad must go far in the tournament in order to be considered successful. Mexico is supposed to advance out of Group D. If it does advance, the team might have to face Argentina or the Netherlands. No matter what, round two promises to be a challenge for Mexico.
Mexico World Cup 2006 First Round Match Schedule (all times local):
Sunday, June 11, Group D1 Mexico vs. Group D2 Iran in Nuremburg, 6 p.m.
Friday, June 16, Group D1 Mexico vs. Group D3 Angola in Hanover, 9 p.m.
Wednesday, June 21, Group D1 Mexico vs. Group D4 Portugal, in Gelsenkirchen, 4 p.m.
Updated Mexico World Cup 2006 News: