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MORESPORTS

Mexico aim to put past failings behind them

By Carlos Calvo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's goal in South Africa will be to get past the first knockout round, their stumbling block at the last four World Cups.

To defy the past and reach the longed-for fifth match, Mexico will field a blend of under-17 World Cup winners and veterans with great experience.

Despite the confidence of coach Javier Aguirre and his squad, given the past failings and Mexico's group in South Africa, success is by no means certain.

Awaiting the 'Tricolor' in Group A are hosts South Africa and past winners France and Uruguay, but Aguirre is not worried.

"Although we have two World Cup champions in our group, I don't believe in the weight of history when the time comes to take to the pitch," Aguirre said in December after the groups were drawn.

Mexico's best outing in 13 World Cups came at the 1986 edition when, as hosts, they reached the quarter-finals only to lose to West Germany. They also reached the last eight as hosts in 1970 when the quarter-finals were the first knockout round.

This time Aguirre has called up veterans such as goalkeeper Oscar Perez, defender Rafael Marquez, midfielder Gerardo Torrado and forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco, all of whom will play their third World Cup if they make the final squad to be named on June 1.

This experience should help to guide the talented youngsters in the squad, several of whom were in the side that won the 2005 under-17 World Cup in Peru by beating Brazil in the final.

Aguirre will employ a 4-4-2 formation in South Africa, where Marquez is the defensive leader, Torrado is ball-winning, hard-tackling midfielder and Blanco the skilful forward who saunters around the pitch, capable of changing the game in an instant.

Also of note are the roles of wingers Andres Guardado, on the right, and Giovani Dos Santos, who are the supply line for Manchester-United bound forward Javier Hernandez.

On June 11 Mexico open the tournament against the hosts, playing six days later against France and their final group game with Uruguay is on June 22.

(Writing by Tom Pilcher; Editing by Clare Fallon)