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Loss means WCup adios for several Mexico players

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — For many players on the Mexico team, the loss to Argentina probably was their World Cup adios.

Veterans Rafael Marquez, Gerardo Torrado, Carlos Salcido, Adolfo Bautista, Oscar Perez, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Guillermo Franco make up a group of players unlikely to be included if Mexico qualifies for the 2014 World Cup.

Argentina beat Mexico 3-1 at Soccer City in the round of 16 on Sunday, ending the team's target of getting past the quarterfinals for the first time.

Marquez will be 35 in 2014 and he doesn't have high hopes of being there.

"I think this could be my last World Cup," he said. "I don't know if there can be another one."

This tournament was the midfielder's third and he holds the Mexico record for most World Cup appearances with 12 matches. For Blanco, Perez and Torrado, it was also their third World Cup.

"I don't feel bad physically," Torrado said. "But I think it's time for me to step aside to give an opportunity to players behind me. Yes, I think this was my last World Cup and it's a shame that we didn't make it to the fifth match."

Blanco didn't want to comment, but at age 37 the forward seems likely to retire from the game before 2014. Perez, a goalkeeper of the same age, was called up to the squad at the last minute and at first it seemed he would only be a spectator before being given the No. 1 jersey.

This World Cup "was farewell for me," Perez said. "We're not leaving as we wanted to because there remains this little step that we couldn't get past. But I'm confident that the boys can do it in the future."

Bautista, a surprise selection for the Argentina match, played in his one and only World Cup. The 31-year-old forward said it was his debut and farewell.

"I'm sad, because personally I didn't want to retire this way," he said. "It was a World Cup in which I didn't have many chances to play."

Franco, born in Argentina but with Mexican citizenship, cried as he talked about his retirement from international soccer.

"This has all been a beautiful experience but also difficult, too," the 33-year-old forward said. "Since making the decision to become Mexican a lot of criticism has been hanging over me and it's been hard, because I'm proud to be Mexican."

Salcido, a 30-year-old defender, said he wouldn't be at the 2014 World Cup if Mexico qualifies, but hopes to be on the team for matches this year and next.

Coach Javier Aguirre's future is also up in the air and there has been speculation he may return to Europe, where "El Vasco" has managed Osasuna and Atletico Madrid.

"I couldn't change the course of history," Aguirre said. "I lacked something, perhaps convincing the players. But I thank them for supporting my decisions over the past 13 months."

Aguirre took over the team during World Cup qualifiers after the dismissal of Sven-Goran Eriksson for a string of poor results.

"I'm a bit disappointed because we worked hard and built up a group that could aspire to something, so I don't have any reason to reproach anybody," Aguirre said.

The coach, however, has met criticism over his decision not to start 22-year-old forward Javier Hernandez during the group stage. Many critics say Hernandez, who scored twice this tournament, including a magnificent goal against Argentina, could have led the team to the top of Group A — thereby avoiding the South Americans in the round of 16.