Rafael Marquez hasn't played a competitive match for his country… (Pedro Ugarte / AFP/Getty…)
Former Mexican national team captain Rafael Marquez, who hasn't played a competitive match for his country in more than two years, was called up this week to a squad desperate for victories in its final two World Cup qualifiers.
Also rejoining the Mexican team after an absence is goalkeeper Memo Ochoa, who was left off the roster for the last two qualifiers because of a dispute with former national team Coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre. But forward Carlos Vela, who hasn't played for Mexico in more than two years because of his own feud with De la Torre, is not on the team.
Vela was reportedly invited but turned down the invitation claiming poor fitness -- however he was fit enough to score a goal for Real Sociedad in Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League loss to Bayer Leverkusen.
With Mexico on the verge of World Cup elimination, De la Torre was fired last month, as was his successor, Luis Fernando Tena. They were replaced by former Monterrey Manager Victor Manuel Vucetich, who was entrusted with healing some of the rifts created by De la Torre as well as saving Mexico's qualifying effort. As a result five players called up for September's qualifiers were not invited back, among them midfielder Andres Guardado and defender Francisco Rodriguez, who captained the team under De la Torre.
Mexico is fifth in the six-team CONCACAF table, three points behind Honduras in the battle for the region's third and final automatic spot in the 2014 World Cup field. That leaves Mexico needing wins over Panama on Friday and at Costa Rica on Oct. 15 -- and some help -- to punch its ticket to Brazil. A win next Friday would lift Mexico into fourth place in the standings, leaving it in position to meet New Zealand in November in a two-leg World Cup play-in.
The release of the U.S. roster for games with Jamaica and Panama was delayed until the weekend because of injury concerns with several key players.
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio, France); Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul); Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Defenders: Severo Meza (Monterrey); Hiram Mier (Monterrery); Rafael Marquez (Leon); Jonny Magallon (Leon); Miguel Layun (Club America); Hugo Ayala (Tigres); Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres); Carlos Salcido (Tigres)
Midfielders: Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul); Christian Gimenez (Cruz Azul); Jesus Zavala (Monterrey); Luis Montes (Leon); Carlos Pena (Leon); Isaac Brizuela (Toluca); Lucas Lobos (Tigres); Fernando Arce (Tijuana); Marco Fabian (Chivas); Javier Aquino (Villareal, Spain); Giovani Dos Santos (Villareal, Spain)
Forwards: Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (Manchester United); Oribe Peralta (Santos); Raul Jimenez (Club America); Aldo de Nigris (Chivas).
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