Marquez, Blanco lead Mexico against New Zealand
PASADENA, Calif. -- World Cup veterans Rafael Marquez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco will lead Mexico against New Zealand in an exhibition Wednesday night at the Rose Bowl.
The game is the second in a series of six exhibitions in the United States for Mexico, which will open the World Cup against host South Africa on June 11. France and Uruguay also will compete in Group A with Mexico and South Africa.
"I think this is the moment for us to do something big, something historic," said Marquez, who added that the 2010 World Cup will be his last. "We have players with lots of experience and young people who have the hunger to win."
The 31-year-old defender played in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and helped FC Barcelona become the first Spanish team to win the Champions League, Spanish first division and Copa del Rey titles in one season.
"I think we have to play up to our standards and with the mental approach that we need and want," Marquez said. "We think about attacking as much as possible."
Blanco, who spent three seasons with Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire, is second in career goals for Mexico's national team with 37. The 37-year-old forward represented Mexico in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. He now plays for Veracruz in Mexico's second division.
Joining Blanco and Marquez on the roster are Arsenal forward Carlos Vela, midfielders Andres Guardado from Deportivo La Coruna in Spain and Giovani Dos Santos from Turkey's Galatasaray, and CD Guadalajara forward Javier Hernandez, who leads Mexico's first division in scoring with eight goals in seven games.
"This is the only game on a FIFA date when we'd all be available," said Guardado, who suffered a leg injury last month while playing in Spain. "I'm still not 100 percent yet but for me, it's important to be here."
Marquez added that Javier Aguirre, who replaced Sven-Goran Eriksson as Mexico's coach in April, is using the exhibitions to evaluate players and that playing in Europe holds no advantage.
"Javier wants to make it very clear that you have to work just like every other player, whether you play in Europe or Mexico," Marquez said. "I found that to be the case in each game, in each camp. Our confidence has grown, especially since Javier took over."
New Zealand, set to play in its first World Cup this year, will face Mexico without veteran defenders Ryan Nelsen and Ivan Vicelich.
Nelsen, the team captain and a member of Blackburn Rovers in England's Premier League, has a hyperextended right knee. Vicelich, who leads New Zealand in all-time appearances with 65, is suspended.
Leading New Zealand is forward Rory Fallon, a regular starter with Plymouth Argyle in England's second division. Three members of New Zealand's team have American connections: defenders Andrew Boyens (New York Red Bulls) and Tony Lochhead (UC Santa Barbara) and midfielder Simon Elliott (San Jose Earthquakes).
At the World Cup, New Zealand will compete in Group F with Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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