CNNSI.com CNNSI.com's complete coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2002 World Cup


 

Mexico

 
  • At a Glance
  • Team Profile
  • Key Player
  • Weak Point
  • X-Factor
  • How They Qualified
  • World Cup History
  • Bottom Line
  • After Mexico earned just four points from its first five games in the final qualifying phase, few people expected them to be making the finals. But new coach Javier Aguirre came in with his cape and became a super-hero, turning the team's fortunes around and taking them to the finals.

    Mexico is now playing in a World Cup for the 12th time, the most of any country in the CONCACAF region.

    As the countdown to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan continues, CNNSI.com's Pedro Pinto takes a close look at all of the nations that will contend for football's greatest prize.

    Pinto is an anchor on World Sport, the international sports show that airs live on CNN/Sports Illustrated and CNN International.

    TEAM HEADLINES
    Sep 7 U.S. women rout Mexico in final test before World Cup
    Sep 6 U.S. women face Mexico in final test before World Cup


    The feisty Aguirre led Mexico to four wins in its last five games, and he did it by organizing a team who had lacked a true leader. There is no question this team has talent... Rafael Marquez and Claudio Suarez are solid defenders, Gerardo Torrado and Alberto Garcia Aspe are good midfielders and the front duo of Paco Palencia and Cuauhtemoc Blanco is deadly.

    The Mexicans like to play in a slow buildup based on a lot of lateral passes and try to surprise opponents when they're least expecting. It worked down the stretch in qualifying and Aguirre is confident in can be effective in the finals as well.


     
     
    Blanco. He has the flair and killer instinct needed to become a star in the tournament. He plays well with both feet and is also deadly in the air. Works hard to receive the ball and can hold it up well for his partner up front... whether that is Palencia or recently recalled Luis Hernandez. Blanco was the man-of-the-match in the decisive qualifying match against Honduras, scoring two of Mexico's three goals at Azteca Stadium. He netted a total of five goals in qualifying after recovering from a serious injury.

    Physical play. Mexican players have a reputation for being soft, if feisty, and although Aguirre tried to correct that problem, he must know that his team will still struggle against larger, physical teams. They are not strong in the air and will find it hard to cope with opponents who like to pump balls into the area.

    Goalkeeping. It seems Jorge Campos has made too many mistakes to earn a starting spot in the finals. The No. 1 jersey will instead go to Oscar Perez, who plays for Cruz Azul. He is solid, but does not have the charisma needed to lead his defense. Defender Claudio "El Imperador" Suarez, if fit, is the true emperor at the back. Perez must become more assertive in order to command respect at the back. He must also improve on crosses.

    Mexico finished second in the CONCACAF final group behind Costa Rica, qualifying automatically for the finals. They won five, drew two and lost three of their games, scoring 16 goals and conceding nine.

    This is Mexico's 13th World Cup appearance and third in a row. Its best finish in the finals was a sixth place. The Mexicans did that in 1970 and 1986.

    Mexico has the talent necessary to make the second phase. The question is: Can it hang with some of the more physically imposing teams? It also don't have the depth necessary to make an impact in the latter stages of the event. It definitely could spring a couple of surprises, but don't expect the Mexicans to make it past the round of 16.

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