World Cup: Guillermo Franco pledges allegiance to the Mexican flag
If things had worked out a little differently, Mexican forward Guillermo Franco could have been on the other side of the field when El Tri takes on Argentina Sunday in a second-round World Cup match.
At least that's what Franco's birth certificate says.
His heart, however, says something different.
Born in Argentina, Franco has started all three of Mexico's matches in this World Cup and has played in two dozen international matches for El Tri. And he insists there will be no mixed emotions Sunday.
"I'm Mexican," Franco said in a press conference. "I feel 100% Mexican since the day I was naturalized.
"I made the decision to be Mexican. I didn't decide where I was born -- God made that decision. But I made the decision to become Mexican and I feel proud of that."
Franco, 33, began his professional soccer career with San Lorenzo of the Argentine first division, playing there from 1996 to 2002. He joined Monterrey of the Mexican Primera Division midway through 2002 and became a naturalized Mexican citizen two years later, a year before being selected to the national team. In 2006 he played for Mexico in the World Cup.
"I never imagined my life would change during my time in Mexico," Franco said. "The opportunities that country has shown me, the love, I have two Mexican daughters -- there are a lot of reasons why I tipped my heart towards Mexico."
Now he faces the homeland he left in a game in which only one can go on -- just as in 2006, when Argentina sent Mexico home with a 2-1 victory.
"Soccer always gives you the opportunity for revenge and in this World Cup that has been the case," Franco said. "That's why we are preparing very well for Argentina. Now I just hope the victory is there for us."
-- Kevin Baxter in Rustenburg, South Africa