Vela boosts chances of playing against Argentina

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Mexico forward Carlos Vela trained with a ball for the first time since picking up a right leg injury more than a week ago, increasing his chances of playing against Argentina in the World Cup.

Vela participated in passing drills in small spaces alongside fellow strikers Giovani Dos Santos and Guillermo Franco on Friday. Previously, Vela was limited to jogging during training sessions.

Vela started Mexico's first two matches but had to be substituted against France on June 17. Coach Javier Aguirre has been optimistic about Vela's chances of being ready for the round of 16 match against Argentina on Sunday.

But Mexico's soccer federation hasn't issued an official report on Vela, and the team doctor hasn't been available for interviews.

Argentina knocked out Mexico in the second round at the 2006 World Cup, and Rafael Marquez is out for revenge for the 2-1 loss in extra time. He is one of eight remaining Mexico players from that tournament.

"We are better than that Mexico team, which didn't have so many players in European teams," Marquez said. Argentina "has the best player in the world, Leo Messi, and that makes them more complete, but we will try to change all that. I have a thorn in my side from four years ago and hopefully on Sunday we can take it out."

Marquez scored Mexico's goal against Argentina in 2006. Besides him, the other seven players from that World Cup still on the team are Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio, Francisco Rodriguez, Guillermo Franco, Gerardo Torrado, Andres Guardado and Guillermo Ochoa.

"I'm experiencing one of the highlights of my football career and personal life," the 31-year-old Marquez said. "I can't do anything but enjoy this opportunity, which could be my last World Cup because of my age."

Mexico has 10 Europe-based players on the team, which initially created high expectations among Mexican fans. But the 1-0 loss to Uruguay on Tuesday put a damper on their passion.

"There is always pessimism in Mexico," Marquez said. "But we have to make them believe in us by working hard and fighting to make Mexicans happy.

"We need to change this mentality not only in football, but other aspects of life to ensure we are better in every sense of the word. To be great, we have to set aside this mentality of being pessimistic."

Marquez added that Mexico has to have a "perfect game" to beat Argentina.