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Mexicans like their team's World Cup chances

March 11, 2010 |  2:11 pm

Javier The opening match of the World Cup is still three months away, but tournament fever already has caught on in Mexico, where nearly one in five people surveyed said they believed the country's national team will reach the World Cup final in South Africa. Never mind that Mexico has never gotten past the quarterfinals before -- and the team hasn't gone that far in 26 years.

According to a public opinion poll taken by the De La Riva Group, 18% of Mexicans questioned believed the national team would make it to the final. Four out of 10 said Mexico will make it to the quarterfinals, and better than 90% of those questioned said the team will make it out of group play despite the fact that Mexico was matched against powers France or Uruguay in the first round.

That confidence is only partly owing to Mexico's strong play under Coach Javier Aguirre, who has turned El Tri around since taking over the team last spring.

"This optimism comes from fans trying to compensate through soccer, in this case the national team, for the things lacking in their daily lives as Mexicans," the De La Riva Group's Herve Prado told the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

But that optimism isn't limited to fans. Oddsmakers say the team, ranked 15th in the world by FIFA, is a 2-to-1 pick to advance out of pool play, and other betting services list Mexico at 66-1 to win the tournament. The U.S. gets slightly better odds at 50-1.

-- Kevin Baxter

Photo: Mexico Coach Javier Aguirre. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images