World Cup: Mexico likely to go with experience
Before Mexico's final World Cup warm-up against Italy last week, Coach Javier Aguirre said the lineup he would use against the Azzurri would probably be the one he would start against South Africa in Friday's World Cup opener.
"I have no doubts," he said with a wave of his hand. "No doubts."
But apparently that didn't mean he wouldn't have second thoughts.
Although Aguirre still has two days to refine his thinking once again, Mexico will likely start the World Cup with precocious striker Javier Hernandez, their leading scorer this year, and midfielder Andrés Guardado on the bench. Their places would be taken by Guillermo Franco and Rafael Marquez.
And Óscar Pérez will almost certainly get the start in goal.
Franco and Marquez, troubled recently by nagging injuries, are healthy now, and that certainly has played into Aguirre's thinking. Plus, both are experienced World Cup veterans, as is the 37-year-old Perez. And with Mexico likely to face a sold-out stadium of 90,000 vuvuzela-tooting South African fans -- plus a live TV audience of several hundred million -- Aguirre wants a lineup that won't be easily rattled.
Plus, with ageless playmaker Cuauhtémoc Blanco able to come off the bench with Hernandez, Alberto Medina and Adolfo Bautista, it gives Aguirre plenty of firepower in reserve should he need a spark in the second half
Mexico's likely starting lineup for Friday's World Cup opener:
GK -- Óscar Pérez
D- Francisco Javier Rodríguez, Ricardo Osorio, Carlos Salcido, Paul Aguilar
MF -- Gerardo Torrado, Rafael Márquez, Giovani Dos Santos, Efraín Juárez
F- Guillermo Franco, Carlos Vela.
That's a first 11 that averages 28 years of age. Although Aguirre certainly has time to change his mind. Again.
-- Kevin Baxter in Johannesburg