Mexico's preliminary World Cup roster full of surprises
Among the 17 selected were sure picks, such as goalkeeper Memo Ochoa, defenders Efrain Juarez and Jonny Magallon and forwards Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Javier Hernandez. But among those joining them in next month's training camp were a couple of players who were anything but sure bets -- No. 3 goalkeeper Oscar Perez and forward Miguel Sabah.
Perez, 37, played for Aguirre's World Cup team in 2002 but was not called up for any of Mexico's "observation games" this year. His invitation to training camp eliminates any chance Jesus Corona or Jonathan Orozco had of making the team
Corona, who appeared to be a lock for South Africa just five months ago, fell out of favor with Aguirre over a series of problems off the field.
Sabah, meanwhile, who scored the deciding goal in last August's win over the United States, saw only limited action during the observation phase, leading to speculation that he was not in Aguirre's plans.
Among the surprising omissions was veteran midfielder Braulino Luna, who had played well in Mexico's four friendlies and appeared to have secured a place on the team. Luna's spot may have gone to Chivas' Adolfo Bautista, something of a sleeper pick whose selection as the sixth forward is seen as an insurance policy should the 37-year-old Blanco sustain injury.
All 17 players chosen are currently playing for Mexican clubs, with nearly a third coming from Chivas of Guadalajara, which leads Mexico's Primera Division after 12 weeks.
Inclusion on Tuesday's roster doesn't guarantee a spot on Mexico's World Cup team. In May, Aguirre will call up as many as 11 European-based players for exhibitions against England, the Netherlands and Portugal, after which he will trim the list back again to the World Cup limit of 23. Among those certain to be called up then are midfielders Andres Guardado and brothers Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos, defender Rafael Marquez and forward Carlos Vela.
Before leaving for Europe, Mexico will play four more exhibitions in North America, meeting Ecuador on May 7 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, Senegal on May 10 in Chicago and Angola three days later in Houston before playing Chile in a World Cup send-off match May 16 in Mexico City.
GK-Memo Ochoa (America)
GK-Luis Ernesto Michel (Chivas)
GK-Oscar Perez (Jaguares)
D-Paul Aguilar (Pachuca)
D-Efrain Juarez (UNAM)
D-Jonny Magallon (Chivas)
D-Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America)
D-Jorge Torres Nilo (Atlas)
D-Adrian Aldrete (Monarcas)
MF-Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul)
MF-Israel Castro (UNAM)
F-Pablo Barrera (UNAM)
F-Adolfo Bautista (Chivas)
F-Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Veracruz)
F-Alberto Medina (Chivas)
F-Miguel Sabah (Monarcas)
F-Javier Hernandez (Chivas)
-- Kevin Baxter
Photo: Miguel Sabah. Credit: Alex Cruz / EPA.