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MEXICO NOTES

Aguirre Keeping Plans Under Wraps

June 01, 2002|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NIIGATA, Japan — With a couple of lineup spots unsettled and an international media corps to deal with, Mexico Coach Javier Aguirre ran a final closed practice session at the team's training base in Fukui before the squad flew here Saturday to play its World Cup opener against Croatia on Monday.

With midfielders Jesus Arellano and Joahan Rodriguez suspended for the Croatia game, Aguirre was mum as to who might replace them, telling reporters he wouldn't reveal his lineup until game day.

Gabriel Caballero, who has played well in Mexico's recent warmup matches, appears set as Arellano's replacement. Less clear is who fills in for Rodriguez at right defensive midfielder. Salvador Carmona, who played the position in exhibitions against Bolivia and AC Milan in mid-May, is a possibility, although there is speculation Aguirre might move Carmona to the back line, starting him in place of left back Melvin Brown. Another option is Alberto Rodriguez.

Croatia, meanwhile, has taken a more public approach to its lineup juggling. Defender Dario Simic, given a Friday deadline to show his strained calf muscle would be ready by Monday, pleaded for more time after a light training session Friday.

If Simic, who has played 48 times for his country, is held out Monday, his likely replacement is Josip Simunic.

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Croatia striker Davor Suker, 34 and no longer assured of a starting place in the lineup, is talking wishfully about becoming the first player to lead consecutive World Cups in scoring.

"I want to play and I want to be the best goal scorer again," said Suker, who led all players with six goals in 1998 as Croatia advanced to the semifinals. "No one has ever done it and it would make me very proud if I could do it.

"If I can get one or two goals in the first match, then anything is possible."

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