Wednesday, Jun. 02, 2010


Manager: Javier Aguirre

Best: Quarter-final (1970, 1986)

Mexico's qualification campaign was probably best known for typically bruising encounters against their long-time U.S. rivals (lost one, won one) and the extraordinary scenes surrounding their 4-1 win over El Salvador, which made sure of Mexico's spot in their 14th World Cup, when play was halted for 10 minutes as a swarm of bees hovered in the goal.

And Mexico may create a buzz in South Africa, now that they have a settled team with previous coach Sven-Göran Eriksson (now guiding the Ivory Coast) being replaced by Javier Aguirre, for a second spell at the helm. His 2002 World Cup team did him proud, winning a group that included Italy, although it lost in the knockout round to the U.S. Eight years on, Spain-based players Rafael Marquez and Andrés Guardado, as well as Carlos Vela and Guillermo Franco who ply their trade in England, will make life tough for any opponent. Nor are the Mexicans likely to be as bothered as some teams by the thinner air of Johannesburg's altitude (2000 meters above sea level) — their own capital is even higher above sea level. And with a revitalized Cuauhtemoc Blanco being lured out of international retirement by Aguirre, Mexico has the potential to match their best ever quarter final finish.

Player to watch: A veritable God to Mexican fans, Cuauhtemoc Blanco is one of the continent's most creative players. Whether his knees hold up is another question.