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World Cup: Lack of Competition Against Top Teams Hinders Mexico's Changes - 2002-05-21


Mexico will be making its 12th appearance at the World Cup finals when it competes in South Korea and Japan. That is more than any other team in its CONCACAF Region. The Mexicans got off to a slow start in qualifying, earning just four points in their first five games. But they finished in strong fashion.

New coach, Javier Aguirre, led Mexico to four wins and a draw in its last five qualifying matches. Mexico plays in Japan against Italy, Croatia and Ecuador in Group-G. But international football commentator Derek Rae is not sure how well the Mexicans will do.

"What Javier and his team are in for this time, it is anyone's guess," he said. "I mean, obviously Cuauhtemoc Blanco will have to shine, he has been a tremendous player for them in recent seasons, and his attacking verve will have to come to the fore."

Rae has high regard for Blanco, who scored five goals in qualifying. But he is less impressed with the region Mexico qualified from. "The problem, I think, for Mexico is being in CONCACAF," he explains. "We do not really know about their quality, because they do not play against too many teams from other parts of the world. And when they do, they are playing against teams who are resting half their side or it is an experimental-type situation."

With its lack of competition against the world's top teams, Derek Rae does not expect Mexico to reach the second round. "And it is a shame, really, because they did themselves so many favors with their performances at the last World Cup finals," he said. "So many problems off the field and a difficult group lead me to believe that Mexico will not be in the round of 16."

But Mexican fans do not agree. They are hoping coach Aguirre's team can at least make it to the quarterfinals.

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