Mexicans hope for a draw

Cuauhtemoc Blanco has insisted Mexico will not be worried if they can do no better than draw with Uruguay in Tuesday's World Cup clash, a result which would send France home.

The Group A match takes place against a backdrop of fears that the two Latin American sides will contrive a result that ensures they both progress to the last 16 at the expense of the 2006 runners-up.

Apart from trusting in the integrity of the management and players of the two squads, France's main hope of avoiding that scenario lies with the fact that Mexico need to win the match to top the group and avoid a likely second-round tie against on-form Argentina, who look virtually certain to top group B.

Veteran forward Blanco, however, insists that the Mexicans are not giving any thought to who they will face in the first knockout round.

"It just doesn't matter," he said. "In any case, we are mentally strong to beat anyone.

"We have no problems facing Argentina in the next round. It would be a great game against a fantastic side."

Uruguay will go into the match as clear favourites to top the group but Blanco said Mexico would not fear anyone after their win over troubled France.

"We know Uruguay are a great team and they have great individual players, like Diego Forlan but we are not scared of them."

Fifa have insisted they are confident that Mexico and Uruguay will approach the match in a professional way and that there will be no repeat of what happened in Spain in 1982, when Germany and Austria knew a 1-0 win for Germany in their final group game would see both sides advance and eliminate Algeria.

Horst Hrubesch gave Germany an early lead and the two sides played out the rest of the 'contest' at walking pace in what went down as one of the most shameful episodes in World Cup history.

The dilemma for Mexico is that playing for a win that would see them top the group carries the risk of being picked off on the counter-attack and suffering a defeat that could allow France to sneak into the knockout phase by beating South Africa in their final match.

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has promised his side will approach the match "as if we were just setting out on the group phase," while his Mexican counterpart, Javier Aguirre, underlined that his side's priority was getting into the last 16.

"We just want to make sure of getting through to the next round. I hope my team are sound and will be strong and solid as they were against France."

British bookmakers have have set shorter odds on a draw than for any other match so far but are still taking bets, indicating that they do not regard a stalemate as a foregone conclusion.

Mexico will be without Arsenal striker Carlos Vela, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury suffered in the win over France.

KEY TO MATCH,/b>

Ambition. For both Uruguay and Mexico, a place in the last 16 will represent mission accomplished as far as their pre-tournament objectives go.

Whether this match will degenerate into a non-competitive encounter will largely depend on the extent of Mexico's desire to get the win that could mean they avoid Argentina in the second round and give themselves a better chance of going further. - AFP


sign up