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Mexico Focused but Feeling Good After Victory

June 05, 2002|Mike Penner

MIKUNI, Japan — Mexico's World Cup team returned Tuesday to its training base in this seaside town on Japan's West Coast, where the road leading to the practice field is lined with red, white and green banners and enthusiastic posters declaring "Vamos El Tri!" and "LaLaLa! Mexico!"

Apparently, "Ole! Ole! Ole!" doesn't quite translate here.

Mexico Coach Javier Aguirre was in a good mood, not surprising considering the events of Monday: Mexico defeated Croatia, 1-0, on a penalty kick by Cuauhtemoc Blanco, then watched upcoming opponent Ecuador get besieged by Italy, 2-0.

"We had a good victory," Aguirre said, "but the Mexican team forgot about it five minutes after it was over. We're very happy about yesterday, but today is another day."

Aguirre said he and his team had turned their attention to Ecuador, which plays Mexico in Miyagi on Sunday. Although Ecuador's defense looked overmatched against Italy, Aguirre said he was impressed with Ecuador's speed, especially on its forward line.

Aguirre was also pleased to welcome midfielders Jesus Arellano and Joahan Rodriquez back to the eligible list. Both players missed the Croatia game because of suspensions.

"I'm very happy for the first time to have all 23 players [available] at the World Cup," said Aguirre, who acknowledged that the "whole team will change" to accommodate the attacking skills of Arellano and Rodriguez.

Mexico can certainly use them. Against Croatia, Mexico was organized and defended well but struggled to produce scoring opportunities. Forward Jared Borgetti squandered one of the precious few, finding himself unmarked in the front of an open net in the 34th minute, turning and spraying the ball wide to the left.

"There were lots of errors in the Mexican team when they got past three-quarters of the length of the field," Aguirre said. "That is where they have got to play better."

Borgetti had Mexico's lone injury of a note, a bruised right ankle suffered when he was kicked by a Croatian player.


For Blanco, his decisive penalty kick was an especially emotional moment, the goal coming barely two weeks after the death of his grandmother.

Blanco was very close to his grandmother, having lived with her as a child. That was the reason, he said, for his long skyward glance after scoring against Croatia.

Blanco said he is dedicating the World Cup to his grandmother, promising her he would score a goal for her the last time they spoke.

Mike Penner


Chicago Fire forward Josh Wolff and Major League Soccer agreed to a four-year contract extension worth at least $1.08 million.

Wolff, with the U.S. national team, will receive the MLS maximum salary of $270,000.


FIFA spokeman Keith Cooper said today it was unlikely that Rivaldo would be given a multi-match ban for faking an injury during Brazil's Group C game against Turkey.... Slovenia Coach Srecko Katanec said he will resign at the end of his team's World Cup campaign because of a verbal confrontation with the team's biggest star, Zlatko Zahovic.

Associated Press

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