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Mexico's World Cup team meets with President Felipe Calderon

As the team prepares for a match Sunday with Chile before heading to Germany for final Cup preparations, the Mexican leader challenges El Tri to play like warriors.

May 15, 2010|By Kevin Baxter

Reporting from Mexico City — Mexico's World Cup team got a visit from the president Saturday, part of a whirlwind of farewell ceremonies that concludes Sunday when Mexico meets Chile in front of a sellout crowd of more than 100,000 at Estadio Azteca.

In an hourlong ceremony at the team's training center on the edge of Mexico City, President Felipe Calderon presented a Mexican flag to goalkeeper Memo Ochoa then challenged the team to play "like warriors" in next month's tournament in South Africa.

"Putting on the jersey of the national team is an honor, a great privilege, an enormous responsibility. This jersey, this flag, represents our people. There is no greater honor greater in life than representing Mexico," he said.

In reminding the players that the country is celebrating its bicentennial, Calderon told them they "have a singular privilege: to represent Mexico in Mexico's greatest year."

The exhibition against fellow World Cup qualifier Chile will be Mexico's fourth game in 10 days but just its second on Mexican soil this year. El Tri beat North Korea, 2-1, in Torreon two months ago in its only other home match.

The biggest concern facing Mexico as it prepares to break camp and head for Europe is its continued inability to finish off its scoring chances.

"In the big leagues, if you have one chance, you have to make it, if you have two, you have to make both, and if you have three, you have to make all three," Coach Javier Aguirre said. "You can't stick with the idea of having three chances and score only one, and winning the game with a final score of 1-0."

Sunday's friendly is likely to be Mexico's most challenging following a successful if unspectacular tour of the U.S. in which Mexico went unbeaten against six teams, only one of which was ranked higher than 65th in the world.

But Chile, ranked 15th in the latest FIFA rankings, will be without strikers Humberto Suazo and Esteban Paredes, both of whom are recovering from injuries.

Mexico, meanwhile, is still missing five of its top players who will join the team for final World Cup preparations at the Adidas training center in Germany beginning Tuesday.

The additions will swell Mexico's roster to 24, one over the World Cup limit. Final roster cuts must be made by June 1.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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